The Importance of Heart Screenings for Athletes

Parents of young athletes should talk to their pediatrician about getting pre-participation sports physicals that include heart  screenings.

After all, sudden cardiac death is 2 ½ times more likely to occur in young athletes than in non-athletes. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, the most common cause of sudden cardiac death in young athletes, occurs in one of every 500 people.

Young athletes are encouraged to have a physical that includes a general exam, a complete health history and family history, a 12-lead EKG screening and, for athletes with an abnormal EKG or family history, an echocardiogram. An exercise test may also be recommended.

To address the growing rate of sudden cardiac arrest in young athletes, CHOC Children’s Sports Medicine collaborates with the CHOC Children’s Heart Institute to offer the Life-Threatening Events Associated with Pediatric Sports (LEAPS) program. CHOC cardiologists work one-on-one with area schools on several fronts:

• Educate coaches and staff about heart conditions.
• Offer electrocardiogram (EKG) screenings to identify athletes at risk.
• Encourage CPR training and the installation of automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) near gyms, fields and other sports facilities.

CHOC also hosts a regular conference for Orange County school board members, high school coaches, school nurses, community pediatricians and parents who want to lower the incidence of sudden cardiac death in local teenage athletes.

To learn more, contact the CHOC Children’s Heart Institute at 714-532-7576.

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