Heartsafe news: Our weekly update on what’s happening in the world of heart safety and noninvasive cardiology
Sports medicine journal: Test young athletes to prevent sudden cardiac arrest
As football season opens in the U.S., the British Journal of Sports Medicine has published an editorial that recommends cardiac testing of young athletes. Heart conditions are often undiagnosed until sudden cardiac arrest occurs, and, currently, the majority of sudden cardiac arrest incidents are fatal.
“The sudden and unexpected death of an apparently healthy young athlete is relatively uncommon (0.5–2.1/100,000 athletes per year),” the journal’s editor notes, “but the catastrophic nature of these events mandates the medical community to adopt more widespread and extensive pre-participation cardiovascular screening.”
Opponents of heart screening for sports programs often cite the cost of a resting 12-lead electrocardiogram test that must be reviewed by a physician.
The same issue of the journal contains an article on prevention of sudden cardiac death in athletes written by University of Washington researchers. The authors explain an number of reasons why testing young athletes has been controversial:
• While sudden cardiac death is the leading cause of death in young athletes, researchers are not in agreement about how often it occurs. The authors suspect it may be vastly underreported.
• ECG testing criteria may need to be adapted for use on athletes to avoid “false positive” reports.
Sudden cardiac arrest deaths spark cardiac testing for student athletes
While researchers discuss the statistics and testing protocols, some school districts and colleges have already begun requiring ECGs for athletes.
In Flathead Valley near Kalispell, Montana, Activities Director Frank Jobe told KECI TV that high school football players received ECGs this year along with their routine physicals. KECI TV reported that a local cardiologist joined up with Flathead and Glacier High School coaches to provide voluntary ECG testing for more than 100 area teens this year.
The Bigfork School District in Kalispell recently settled a lawsuit brought against the district by the parents of a football player who died as a result of suffering sudden cardiac arrest and a brain injury during football practice in August 2007.
According to an Associated Press report in USA Today, Jeffrey Bowman’s parents sued the district because the school’s automated external defibrillator (AED) was not readily available at the football field. The district, which had argued that it was not required to have or use an AED, did not release details of the settlement.
Bowman’s death sparked a drive to get defibrillators for schools in the region.
In Texas, Heart Hospital Baylor Plano is offering low-cost ECGs and echocardiograms for the area’s student athletes. WFAA-TV reports that the community took action after a 16-year-old football player, Zachary Schrah, collapsed and died of sudden cardiac arrest during practice last spring.
Zachary’s mother, Karen Schrah, is an advocate for legislation mandating heart screenings as a part of student physicals.
In the Rochester region of New York State last weekend, community organizations held a free heart-health screening event for 1,000 teen athletes from nine school districts. The Democrat and Chronical website reported on the organization of the student athlete cardiac testing event.
The Finger Lakes Health Foundation brought together medical device sponsors and support from the Anthony Bates Foundation to provide ECG testing and limited echocardiograms. The Anthony Bates Foundation, created in memory of Anthony Bates, a young Kansas State football player who died in 2000 at age 20 of undiagnosed hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). HCM is a heart disease, often genetic in origin, that weakens the heart muscle. It can usually be detected by a routine ECG test. This video from WHEC.com has the story of Anthony Bates and the Finger Lakes area screening:
Students whose test results indicated heart abnormalities were referred for follow-up testing.
The Anthony Bates Foundation is currently supporting student athlete heart screening events in Arizona, Kansas, New York, and Ohio.
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