Did Bjorn Borg Really Have a Pulse Rate of 45?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about tennis and whether they are true or false.

TENNIS URBAN LEGEND: Bjorn Borg had a pulse rate of 45 beats per minute.

Often in our zeal to celebrate legendary athletes, we sometimes begin to, well, create legends about these legendary athletes, often exaggerating their physical abilities to the extreme.

One such popular legend is Björn Borg’s fabled pulse rate.

Björn Borg is unquestionably one of the greatest tennis players of all-time.


He has a remarkable eleven Grand Slam singles titles, made even more remarkable by the fact that nine of the eleven were part of yearly winning streaks of four or more years, such as the four French Opens he won between 1978 and 1981 or the FIVE Wimbledons he won between 1976 and 1980!!

But what about that pulse rate of his?

A normal adult, when not doing anything in particular, typically has a pulse rate (which roughly measures your heart rate) of 60-100 beats per minute (BPM). When you sleep, it can get as low as 40 beats per minute. During exercise, it can get up to 150-200 BPM.

Björn Borg was rumored to have a pulse rate of ranging from a shocking 35 BPM to a still shocking 45 BPM.

Here is a sampling of places citing this…

Time Magazine in 1983:

Borg’s physical gifts alone would have been enough to make him extraordinary: regular pulse rate 35

The London Times:

As a player Borg was always perceived as being almost detached from reality. His pulse rate would slow to 39 beats a minute, to suggest his blood was almost chilled.

Plus a bunch of various web sites out there saying basically the same thing.

However, it is not true.

In his co-written biography with Borg, BJORN BORG: MY LIFE AND GAME, Eugene Scott explains that the myth arose based on a medical exam Borg took for military service when he was 18. That pulse rate WAS an extraordinary 39.

However, Borg’s true rate was a very normal “about 50 when he wakes up and around 60 in the afternoon.”

Just like other mortal men.

The legend is…


Thanks to Eugene Scott for the information!!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future urban legends columns! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com

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