Caring for athletes with cardiac disease requires an approach that caters to the specific needs of the athlete.
A 27-year-old professional rugby player was admitted with decompensated heart failure and atrial fibrillation (AF). Transthoracic echocardiogram showed features in keeping with a dilated cardiomyopathy with severe left ventricular (LV) systolic impairment. He made good progress on evidence-based heart failure medication and his LV systolic function returned to normal. He failed to maintain sinus rhythm with cardioversion and remained in persistent AF. He then suffered a transient ischaemic attack despite appropriate anticoagulation. At 1-year follow-up, he was asymptomatic and against medical advice continued to play competitive rugby whilst taking rivaroxaban. He subsequently underwent implantation with a percutaneous left atrial appendage occlusion device, allowing him to discontinue anticoagulation, reduce his bleeding risk and resume his career, whilst simultaneously lowering the thromboembolic risk.
Counselling should include different management options aimed at minimizing the risks to athletes if they to return to competitive sports. Left atrial appendage occlusion devices are a suitable AF-related stroke prevention strategy in athletes competing in full-contact sports.

© The Author(s) 2020. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the European Society of Cardiology.