Although screening guidelines that could prevent sudden cardiac death in athletes have existed since 1996, fewer than 6 percent of physicians actually follow them, according to a study that will be presented this week at the American Heart Association (AHA) meeting in Orlando.
"A young person at the peak of physical prowess, dying without any warning — it's a shocking, tragic and potentially preventable death," said Dr. Nicolas Madsen, lead researcher and pediatric cardiology fellow at the University of Washington School of Medicine.
Researchers at the University of Washington surveyed more than 1,000 pediatricians and family doctors, and more than 300 athletic directors about pre-sports physicals. Half the doctors were not even aware that the heart association guidelines existed, and only 6 percent of the athletic directors knew of them.
Sudden cardiac arrest occurs when the heart suddenly stops beating due to an irregular rhythm. Without treatment, death can occur in minutes. It can strike student athletes who otherwise appear to be in prime health.
A proper pre-sports physical could catch a problem before it becomes fatal, according to the American Heart Association. The AHA-recommended screening involves eight questions and four simple physical exams. Among the questions are, "Do you ever experience chest pain during exercise, or unexplained fainting?" The exams include listening to the heart for irregular rhythms and checking blood pressure.
The doctors and athletic directors unanimously supported adopting a statewide form incorporating national screening guidelines, Madsen said. "We need to educate providers so patients can actually benefit from these national recommendations."
email@example.com or 407-420-5158