Stories about: Dr. Gianmichel Corrado

Screening athletes for undetected heart problems: What parents need to know now

EKG screening basketball_cropDr. Gian Corrado, a physician in Boston Children’s Hospital Sports Medicine, was an undergraduate playing pick-up basketball when one of his teammates died suddenly on the court. Unfortunately, the young player’s death is not an isolated tragedy.

Every three days, a young athlete somewhere in the U.S. collapses and dies due to an undetected heart problem.

“It’s uncommon,” Corrado says, “but it’s not SO uncommon that it may not touch you. It happens, and we have no effective, efficient way to screen for it.”

The National College Athletic Association’s chief medical officer has suggested it may be useful to routinely perform electrocardiograms (EKGs) and possibly other cardiac tests on some collegiate level athletes. A New York Times opinion piece about the issue early in 2016 drew a lot of attention.

But there’s widespread debate in medical circles about such broad usage of EKGs. Why is this so controversial? If it’s such a valuable test, why don’t athletes get routine EKGs?

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After competitive dreams end, gymnast finds a new beginning

Plica syndrome
Colby at the beach

Colby Parsons fell in love with gymnastics at age 4. “I loved the communal aspect of my team and the focus on mastery in gymnastics,” recalls Colby, now 19 and a Brown University freshman. As a young boy, Colby dreamed of competing as an all-around gymnast in Nationals. But sometimes life plans don’t go according to plan.

As a young teen, Colby was ranked fifth in Massachusetts, but he was in constant pain. His parents thought his knee pain might be caused by growing pains or an overuse injury. His coach suspected shin splints.

“His pediatrician said, ‘Give it a few weeks. Take a break from gymnastics,’” recalls his mother Nancy.

But kids like Colby really don’t take a break.

Despite the pain, Colby continued to compete and reached the state championships in 2012. During a run to the vault, his knee pain became so intense he couldn’t complete the run.

“He had to scratch. It was devastating,” says Nancy.

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