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Mitral Valve Prolapse - Exercise Recommendations


Updated July 29, 2009

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Mitral valve prolapse (MVP) is a very commonly diagnosed condition in which the mitral valve (the valve that lies between the left atrium and left ventricle) partially prolapses (or "flops") back into the left atrium while the left ventricle is contracting.

With modern high-definition echocardiography, some degree of prolapse is commonly seen in people who are almost certainly normal. Because of this, the diagnosis of MVP is probably being made too often. Patients with this "mild" (or, some would say, nonexistent) MVP do not appear to be at risk for sudden death or any other cardiac problems due to MVP.

However, severe MVP can cause significant mitral regurgitation -- leakage of blood back into the left atrium while the ventricle is contracting -- and eventually can produce heart failure, increasing the risk for sudden death. Fortunately, severe MVP is relatively uncommon.

What Are the General Exercise Recommendations For Young Athletes With MVP?

The large majority of people diagnosed with MVP are not at increased risk for sudden death. In fact, the 2005 36th Bethesda Conference on Eligibility Recommendations for Competitive Athletes with Cardiovascular Abnormalities recommends that people with MVP can compete in all types of sports without restriction, unless they have evidence of increased risk.

Such evidence of higher risk includes a family history of sudden death with MVP, a history of loss if consciousness (syncope) associated with an arrhythmia, documented significant cardiac arrhythmias, moderate or severe mitral regurgitation, or a history of blood clots suspected to be due to the abnormal heart valve. If any of these high-risk indicators are present, the athlete should be limited to low-intensity sports like golf or bowling.


Maron, BJ, Ackerman, MJ, Nishimura, RA, et al. Task Force 4: HCM and other cardiomyopathies, mitral valve prolapse, myocarditis, and Marfan syndrome. J Am Coll Cardiol 2005; 45:1340

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