Electrocardiography and the preparticipation physical examination: is it time for routine screening?

Diane K Donnelly, Thomas M Howard
Current Sports Medicine Reports 2006, 5 (2): 67-73
The preparticipation physical examination (PPE) is a screening tool endorsed by numerous organizations and used to evaluate young athletes prior to competition for both medical and musculoskeletal conditions that may predispose them to injury. The cardiac portion of the examination, as recommended by the American Heart Association, is detailed specifically to detect signs or symptoms consistent with certain congenital heart conditions that may increase a young athlete's risk of sudden cardiac death (SCD). Much controversy has erupted over the years as to whether this examination has the diagnostic sensitivity to detect these conditions and prevent SCD, and whether additional modalities, such as the 12-lead electrocardiograph (ECG), should be incorporated. Given the rarity of SCD events, the large population of young athletes that would qualify yearly for the examination, and the limitations that an ECG would present, it would not be efficient to add the ECG to the standard PPE on the symptomatic athlete. More efforts should be spent in standardizing the PPE on a national level to further improve its efficiency.

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