Stories about: Dr. John Triedman

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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