Echo for Athletes: Providing piece of mind on and off the field
We’ve all heard the stories: In the middle of throwing a football down a field or kicking a goal, a young athlete unexpectedly collapses and dies of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). While most young athletes are fit to handle rigorous activities, even the healthiest of them may have an undetected cardiovascular condition that could put them at risk for SCA.
SCA – the abrupt loss of heart function – affects about one out of every 500 Americans and often occurs without warning. The disease itself is difficult to detect during a routine physical exam or athletic screening, making preventive cardiac screenings an important measure for at-risk athletes.
“Anyone competing in a very strenuous sport is a candidate,” explains Eugene Chung, M.D., a board-certified cardiologist and director of outcomes at The Christ Hospital’s Heart and Vascular Center. “Preventive screenings can save the life of any unsuspecting athlete who may be playing with an undiagnosed heart condition.”
Is your child at risk for SCA?
When sudden cardiac arrest strikes young athletes, it is often related to a genetic abnormality that exists in the heart, such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). HCM is an abnormal thickening of the heart muscle that can make it difficult to pump blood during times of strenuous activity as well as increase the risk of arrhythmias that can lead to SCA.
HCM is the number one cause of sudden death in people under 30. “Because these conditions can go undetected, those with a family history of SCA or other heart problems should seriously consider further cardiac testing before getting involved in strenuous activities,” Dr. Chung recommends.
Preventing sudden death on the field
To test for heart abnormalities, doctors often use an echocardiogram, or echo. An echo is a painless, noninvasive ultrasound of the heart. During the procedure, high-frequency sound waves pass through the chest to create a digital picture that shows the size, shape and movement of the heart. It requires no radiation or contrast dyes, is generally free of side effects and typically takes no longer than 30 minutes.
“Echocardiograms are safe and easy,” says Dr. Chung. “And, most importantly, it’s a very accurate way to detect any cardiac abnormalities.” Once the images are recorded, a cardiologist reviews them for any inconsistencies. If any abnormalities are discovered, more in-depth tests may be performed.
Screening no longer just for the pros
Student athletes throughout Cincinnati now have access to a preventive cardiac screening program designed by heart experts at The Christ Hospital. Here, we offer non-invasive heart screenings, including echocardiograms, starting at $99. To learn more about the program or to schedule a screening, call 513-585-2668 or visit www.TheChristHospital.com.