Study: Heart screenings for athletes largely ineffective

November 16, 2017 / Sports Medicine
Fewer than one in five cases of sudden cardiac arrest among athletes would have been prevented with a heart screening, according to a new study.

Research was led by Dr. Paul Dorian at the University of Toronto, and reported in The New England Journal of Medicine. Cardiac arrest among young athletes is rare, but the issue has caught the attention of athletic trainers and state associations in recent years. A separate study done by researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital estimated that between 1 in 40,000 and 1 in 80,000 athletes die each year from sudden cardiac arrest.

From Reuters Health:

The analysis looked at every instance of cardiac arrest that occurred from 2009 through 2014 in people age 12 to 45 among 6.6 million residents in the southern Ontario area.

During that time, there were 74 sport-related cardiac arrests. Only 16 of the 74 occurred during or within an hour of playing a competitive sport; the rest were among people involved in a non-competitive sport, where no formal league was involved.

And only three of those 16 cases “were determined to have been potentially identifiable if the athletes had undergone participation screening,” said the researchers.

Dorian told Reuters that the money spent on heart screenings would be better spent on purchasing defibrillators for arenas and stadiums, and training people to properly use them.

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