Health :: Testing athletes’ hearts saves lives – heart screening

If athletes’ hearts are tested the number of sudden cardiac deaths related to sports can go down significantly, say researchers from the University of Padua Medical School, Italy. For the last 24 years, all athletes in Italy have had to undergo an electrocardiogram (EKG) test before engaging in competitive sports. Approximately 2% of people tested were found to have hidden heart problems and are kept from taking part in competitive sports.

The researchers looked at the prevalence of sudden death from heart problems among athletes and non-athletes, aged 12-35, in the Veneto region, Italy, between 1979 – 2004. Obligatory EKG screening started in 1982.

Even though the rate of sudden death from heart problems remained constant throughout the period, the rate for athletes fell by 89%.

You can read about this study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

This type of obligatory screening does not exist in the USA. If it did, 10 million people would need to be screened each year. Some universities carry out their own screening programs.

According to the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research, about 25 sports people suffer from sudden cardiac deaths each year in the USA. Sudden cardiac death is the major cause of death among athletes in the USA.

“Trends in Sudden Cardiovascular Death in Young Competitive Athletes After Implementation of a Preparticipation Screening Program”Domenico Corrado, MD, PhD; Cristina Basso, MD, PhD; Andrea Pavei, MD; Pierantonio Michieli, MD, PhD; Maurizio Schiavon, MD; Gaetano Thiene, MDJAMA Vol. 296 No. 13, October 4, 2006Click here to view abstract online


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