Testing Can’t Prevent Sudden Death in Athletes

Courtesy of lanchongzi on Flickr.

Testing young athletes for abnormal heart rhythms does not help prevent sudden death cases, Science Daily reports.

A new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that mandatory athlete screenings using electrocardiograms (EKG) to detect abnormalities in heart rhythm had “no apparent effect” on an athlete’s risk for cardiac arrest.

The study’s authors examined instances of sudden cardiac arrest reported in Israeli athletes between 1985 and 2009. Israeli newspapers reported 24 instances in which athletes suffered sudden death or cardiac arrest during that time. In 1997, a law was enacted in Israel that mandated screening of all athletes with resting EKG and exercise tests. Of the 24 deaths, 11 occurred before the law was passed and 13 occurred afterward, indicating the legislation has not helped prevent athlete deaths.

The United States does not currently mandate EKG screenings for athletes nor does the NCAA, as debates rage whether the cost is worth the few lives that may be saved—one in 44,000 NCAA athletes dies from sudden cardiac arrest per year, while about 400,000 students between the ages of 17 and 23 participate in NCAA sports, redorbit.com reports.

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