The pre-sports cardiovascular evaluation: should it depend on the level of competition, the sport, or the state?

Yaniv Bar-Cohen, Michael J Silka
Pediatric Cardiology 2012, 33 (3): 417-27
Sudden cardiac death (SCD) in an athlete is a rare but tragic event, and significant controversy exists regarding the most effective method to define those at highest risk. Recommendations of the American Heart Association require that a history and physical examination be used for preparticipation screening with an abnormal cardiac finding expected to prompt further evaluation. Given the lack of data documenting that electrocardiogram (ECG) screening in all competitive athletes is either feasible or appropriate, these same guidelines state that such screening is optional but not mandatory. The extremely low incidence of SCD events, in conjunction with the low sensitivity and specificity of ECG as a screening tool in athletes, contributes to this recommendation. Although these guidelines target all competitive athletes, however, there may be subgroups of athletes, based on age, level of competition, individual sport, or state of residence, for which mandatory ECG screening may be both appropriate and sensible. Given the lack of resolution of the ongoing ECG debate, it is perhaps reasonable to consider screening specific high-risk subgroups of athletes rather than continuing to dispute whether to screen all competitive athletes or none at all. Recent data suggest that such a program may be feasible and may provide a rationale basis for subsequent expansion of cardiovascular screening programs.


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