Writing for Time, Eben Harrell looks into whether athletes should be screened for cardiac problems in an effort to prevent sudden cardiac death (SCD). The condition, in which the heart suddenly stops working, is more likely to strike down athletes than it is their couch-potato counterparts.
There is evidence that screening, including the electrocardiogram, can prevent most cases of SCD.
Analyzing data from 42,000 athletes in the northeastern Veneto region of the country between 1979 and 2004, Italian researchers found that ECG screening resulted in an almost 90% drop in sudden cardiac deaths. Incidence of SCD among the unscreened non-athletic population did not change significantly during that time.
Noting the ECG’s shortcomings – it costs about $500 and produces false positives 7 percent of the time – Harrell adds that there is some evidence that a simple physical examination could be equally effective.
Find tips about reporting on the health of student athletes and links to a number of articles, tip sheets, journal articles and other resources in AHCJ’s new “Reporting on sports injuries in school-age children” tip sheet.