Article Abstract

Cardiac screening to prevent sudden death in young athletes

Authors: Christopher Schmehil, Devika Malhotra, Dilip R. Patel


Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is a sudden and unexpected death caused by loss of heart of function. SCD may occur in any population, but when it occurs on the playing field in a young individual, communities worldwide are affected. Although these events are rare, media coverage of sudden cardiac arrests in young athletes have created the impression that these events are far more common than they appear. With a heightened awareness of SCD in young athletes, screening methods have been developed to try and prevent these events from occurring. The American Heart Associations (AHA) currently employs history and physical examination alone during the preparticipation physical exam (PPE), which clears a young athlete for participation in sports. There has been recent discussion on whether to include screening electrocardiogram (ECG) in the PPE especially after one study in Italy by Corrado et al. found that using routine ECG reduced the annual incidence of SCD by 90%. In this article we will discuss how effective the current screening recommendations are, whether routine ECG use should be included in the PPE and if it is cost effective, and review other screening modalities that may be useful in the detection of young athletes at risk for SCD.