Electrocardiogram (EKG) and echocardiogram tests could reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death in college athletes, according University of Washington researchers. Their study on the incidence of cardiac fatalities in college sports, led by sports medicine specialist Dr. Kimberly Harmon, appears in the April 4 online edition of the journal Circulation. (The abstract of the study is available to the public; a subscription is required to view the complete study.)
The new study concludes that sudden cardiac death is the leading medical cause of death in NCAA student-athletes. On average, 9 NCAA athletes a year suffer sudden cardiac death.
The study looked only at college athletes whose schools and teams are recognized by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Records showed that there were 45 deaths from cardiac incidents during the five years (2004 – 2008) covered by the study. Deaths were most likely to occur among NCAA basketball players and swimmers.
“Young athletes are not supposed to die doing what they love,” Dr. Jonathan Drezner, a co-author of the study, told the Associated Press.
The Associated Press reports that the American Heart Association currently recommends that student athletes have a medical exam that includes a review of family medical history, but the association does not recommend an electrocardiogram or echocardiogram because of the cost of the additional screenings. The European Society of Cardiology and the International Olympic Committee both recommend that student athletes have an EKG test. In a press release about the new study, the American Heart Association said that the data from the study suggests that “more extensive screening might be practical if targeted at high-risk groups — for instance, basketball players.”
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