Modern standards of ECG interpretation in young athletes: yield and effectiveness

Irfan M Asif, Jordan M Prutkin
Journal of Electrocardiology 2015, 48 (3): 292-7
Although cardiovascular screening is recommended before participating in competitive sports, the role of the 12-lead electrocardiogram (ECG) has been debated. When added to the medical history and physical examination, an ECG used during the pre-participation screening (PPS) of young athletes can greatly enhance the ability to detect underlying cardiovascular pathology. Concerns over false positive rates, however, have posed an obstacle to large-scale implementation. The recent development of modern athlete-specific ECG interpretation criteria has dramatically reduced false positive rates to levels below other commonly used screening tests (e.g. breast cancer, prostate cancer) and subsequently improved cost effectiveness. There are also emerging data that certain sub-groups have a higher prevalence of ECG abnormalities, including males, athletes of Afro-Caribbean descent, basketball players, and endurance athletes. While false positive rates from a number of studies are reduced with the improved standards, there may be room for continued improvements. Future efforts should focus on refining criteria based on age, race, gender, ethnicity, and sport, while also clearly delineating the appropriate work-up strategies for those with abnormal findings, as this can lead to improved resource utilization.


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