-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
WEDNESDAY, June 1 (HealthDay News) -- Screening college athletes
for heart conditions before they participate in sports could help
prevent incidents of sudden cardiac death, according to a new
Nearly one in four athletes tested either had a distinct heart
abnormality or symptoms that required further screening, prompting
researchers to call for college students to be screened before
participating in sports.
Every year in the United States, 60 to 80 athletes succumb to
sudden cardiac death, the researchers pointed out in their report
published in June issue of
The American Journal of Medicine. Despite this grim statistic, American college athletes are not commonly subjected to heart testing before they are allowed to participate in sports.
Such screenings are already routinely practiced in Europe,
promoted by the International Olympic Committee and mandated in
Italy, lead investigator Dr. Anthony Magalski, of Saint Luke's Mid
America Heart and Vascular Institute in Kansas City, said in a
journal news release.
For the study, researchers compiled electrocardiograms (a
recording of the electrical waves that cause the heart muscle to
pump) and echocardiograms (an ultrasound of the heart) for 964 male
and female varsity athletes, representing a wide array of sports,
including football, rowing, and track and field.
Magalski's team identified distinct heart abnormalities in 10
percent of the athletes. Nearly 15 percent of them reported cardiac
symptoms, and about 23 percent required additional heart
In fact, the investigators identified seven athletes with
undiagnosed Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome (an electrical defect
that can cause arrhythmia), and one with long QT syndrome (an
abnormality of the heart's electrical rhythm linked to sudden
As a result of the study, two of the athletes were ultimately
barred from competition.
The study authors added that the distinct abnormalities were
nearly three times more common among the male athletes and about
twice as likely among those who were black (although researchers
speculated some of the latter might have been false positives).
"These findings offer a framework for performing pre-participation screening in competitive collegiate athletes," Magalski said in the news release. "The addition of electrocardiography and echocardiography to routine pre-participation history and physical examination provided incremental diagnostic value," he concluded.
The study authors also noted that American Heart
Association/American College of Cardiology guidelines for
pre-participation screening effectively identified nearly 25
percent of athletes who were candidates for heart screening based
on history or symptoms.
The American Heart Association provides more detailed
sudden cardiac death.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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