How cardiovascular screening of young athletes can save lives


Cardiovascular Screening, Sports participation is very important for the emotional and physical development of children and adults alike. We know that children and adults that exercise regularly have a lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, can improve with the control of diabetes and has a positive effect on the long-term outlook for people.

However, there is a small number of people that can be born with congenital abnormalities of the heart or can have electrical problems with the heart in which this exposure to especially competitive sport can cause problems and sometimes can cause death in these people, and the role of screening of competitive sports participants is to identify those subjects that are at high risk from competitive sport participation. There are three main large group of conditions.

The first is that people can be born with abnormality of the heart and this can affect for example the heart valves or holes in the heart or the way the blood supply to the heart is created. The second large group is people that have a heart muscle conditions.

These are largely inherited from their family members and the last group is abnormalities in the way the electricity is generated and spreads through the heart. And all these three conditions have in common the fact that when a subject undertakes regular competitive sport, it can cause problems. This can be dropped in the blood pressure or abnormalities in the heartbeat that can at times also be lethal. The majority of people that undertake competitive sport don’t need to undertake very extensive testing. A good family history and good examination and an ECG are usually able to identify cardiac problems in these individuals.

How cardiovascular screening of young athletes can save lives
How cardiovascular screening of young athletes can save lives

In a small minority of people, there might be the need for further investigations which is generally an echocardiography: which is an ultrasound investigation of the heart, which is a non-invasive and non-painful way of assessing the heart structure and the function. And if there are any abnormal results flagged up from any of these investigations in the echocardiogram, then further testing might be required but this is only on a very limited number of subjects. Every week in the UK, 12 children and young adults die suddenly while they are undertaking sport activities.

These children are affected by either electrical or structural problems with the heart which can be identified by non-invasive testing. Every child and young adult who’s undertaking competitive sport should be screened and particularly if they have symptoms like chest pain, feeling the heart racing excessively during exercise, or getting out of breath, or fainting while they’re undertaking the sport.

Every week in the UK 12 children or young adults with abnormalities in the heart die suddenly and these children die for abnormalities can be easily identified by non-invasive testing. Screening of people undertaking competitive sport can identify those children at high risk of dying suddenly or having major problems while doing exercise. So it is very important that all people undertaking a competitive sport particularly they have symptoms they get screened.

Younger athletes can be screened if they have symptoms in their local hospitals under the NHS. In some other cases, if this sport is at a very high level, then they will be tested by their teams. Otherwise there are many facilities where all these investigations can be undertaken throughout the country. Cardiovascular Screening


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