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Call for athlete cardiac screening to be stepped up

Thursday August 9th, 2018

The number of young sportspeople at risk from undetected cardiac disease may be much higher than previously thought, according to a major UK study published last night.

Researchers screened more than 11,000 football players over a 20-year period and found 42 with cardiac myopathies. Three of these suffered from symptoms.

The researchers at St George’s, University of London, said they found an incidence of sudden death from cardiac disease of one in 14,700 – three times the lowest of previous estimates.

The players were all part of the Football Association’s mandatory cardiac screening programme, which includes 92 professional clubs.

Out of the 42 cases detected, 70% were able to return to competitive sport after treatment. Two have died after returning to play against medical advice.

In following up their initial work, the researchers came across six more deaths of players from inherited cardiac diseases. These players had not been detected during screening.

The researchers say that only screening at 16 may miss some cardiomyopathies.

The findings were published last night in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Researcher Professor Sanjay Sharma said: “One of the main obstacles to implicating cardiac screening in the young is the lack of information on the precise incidence of sudden cardiac death in athletes.

“It is well known that adolescent athletes are most vulnerable but, before this study, nobody has ever reported outcomes in a well-defined screened cohort.”

He added: “Our results represent the minimum incidence of sudden cardiac death among screened adolescent soccer players. Since we may not have captured all cases of sudden death, the death rate could be higher. On our advice the FA has now extended the screening process to protect this cohort of young athletes.”

Outcomes of Cardiac Screening in Adolescent Soccer Players. NEJM 8 August 2018

Tags: Fitness | Heart Health | Infancy to Adolescence | UK News

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