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4/11/08

Italy Has Screened Thousands of Young People for Heart Problems Playing Sports With an EKG and Says They Saved Lives

EKG Heart Screening Italy Has Screened Thousands of Young People for Heart Problems Playing Sports With an EKG and Says They Saved Lives

Electrocardiogram Screening for Heart Problems Student Athletes : Italy and at Least One U.S. Suburb Think EKG for Children is A Good Idea


Should children in gym class and who play sports get electrocardiograms? While it will not detect many heart problems an ekg is a simple test of the heart's electrical activity where wires are taped to the chest and a brief recording of the heart's electrical activity is made. An EKG will detect some heart problems including some congenital heart rhythm problems. Student athletes for the most part participate in school sports without problems. But you hear from time to time about a child that suddenly collapses. Should student athletes and all children even those who are just in gym class get electrocardiograms as a heart screening tool? In the U.S the powers that be seem against it, some saying it isn't cost effective since so few problems would be detected yet in Italy, a program has been in place for years to electrocardiogram screen young people in sports and athletics and they claim they have saved lives. Unlike Italy, in the U.S. routine EKG screening of children for sports has not been done. Italy does encourage young people if not children. It doesn't make sense to me that in Italy they are encouraged to get electrocardiograms and yet here in the United States they say young people don't need them.



There was an Italian study by the Center for Sports Medicine of Padova involving nearly 34,000 athletes under 35, in which 1,000 were disqualified from competing on health grounds - 621 of them because tests revealed relevant cardiovascular abnormalities.

The European researchers recommended heart screening should start around the age of 12 to 14 and be repeated at least every two years. Dr Domenico Corrado, of the Departments of Cardiology and Pathology at the University of Padova, Italy, one of the lead researchers on the study, said: "We know very little about the risk of sudden death associated with exercise in young competitors, so the benefits versus the hazards of sports activity pose a clinical dilemma".

"However, we know from a study in the Veneto region of Italy that adolescents and young adults involved in competitive sport had a two and a half times higher risk of sudden death." Back in 2005 a headline story started "European heart experts are calling for all young athletes to be screened for potentially fatal heart problems before they compete".

  • Call to Check Athletes' Hearts Apparently it's a good idea for Italian kids to get ekg heart screening not for American kids, at least if you ask some of the U.S. medical community. I understand some of the U.S argument that EKG doesn't screen for all potential heart problems and a resting EKG is even less useful. Nevertheless, if you prevent some kids from getting hurt I think it's worth it. Apparently things are starting to change in the U.S now.

    The Village of Lincolnwood, Illinois in suburban Chicago gives children electrocardiograms. "The Lincolnwood School District is taking a bold step to prevent that from happening to their kids. It is one of the first in the nation to require students be screened with EKGs before playing on a sports team. Electrocardiograms can pick up some potentially fatal heart conditions that a physical exam cannot.

    "It seems like every other week you hear about a young athlete who collapses on the field with no apparent symptoms," said Paul Langer, the district board member who hatched the idea for the mandatory program. "You sit there with your wife and you say 'Oh my god, what if that was our child?' "

  • Signs of Heart Defects in Young Athletes Ignored In Phoenix, Arizona Dr. Paul Steingard is a physician who has come to believe in the utility of EKG and screening for school athletes and has formed a group called TOPS, Team of Physicans for Students.

  • Team of Physicians for Students
  • Cardiologists Call for Cardiovascular Screening for All Young Competitive Athletes