Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2009

Screening Athletes

It's always shocking when a seemingly healthy person dies suddenly, especially when that person is an athlete. But 1 in 15,000 to 50,000 athletes succumbs to sudden cardiac death (SCD), a rate three times higher than that of the rest of the population. Most SCD cases with athletes involve those who had hereditary or congenital cardiovascular disease but showed no prior symptoms. Almost all occur during or shortly after athletic activity. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) now recommends that athletes under 35 be tested routinely for SCD risk using an electrocardiograph. Some cardiologists disagree, citing the cost and the risk of false positives, but an IOC-sponsored study is adamant. Asks one study author: "How can you put a price on a vibrant 16-year-old dying?"