Teenage Sudden Cardiac Death More Common
May 1-Sudden cardiac death is far more prevalent among young athletes than previously believed, recent research has shown, according to a recent New York Times article. The American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that 2,000 people under the age of 25 die from sudden cardiac arrest in the United States every year.
While it can strike those who are sedentary, the risk is up to three times greater in competitive athletes. According to some experts, a high school student dies of cardiac arrest as often as every three days.
Sudden cardiac arrest in a young person usually stems from a structural defect in the heart or a problem with its electrical circuitry.
The most frequent cause, accounting for about 40 percent of all cases, is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, or HCM, a thickening of the heart muscle. The problem is that those who are at risk are hard to spot. Warning signs, like dizziness and shortness of breath, can be rare or dismissed by young athletes used to overworking themselves.
An EKG can detect warning signs
An electrocardiogram, or EKG, can detect HCM and other potential causes of heart trouble by looking for abnormal electrical signaling in the heart. Though EKGs are not as thorough as imaging tests like an echocardiogram, which shows a 3-D view of the heart, they are cheaper and easier to conduct on a wider basis. Even physical exams that include extensive medical histories typically fail to identify 60 percent to 80 percent of student athletes at risk, Dr. Drezner said. Adding an EKG to the sports physical would flag many young athletes whose heart defects would otherwise go unnoticed.
How to get a heart screening for your child
Parents who are interested in a heart screening can reach out to their family doctors, or find out about free screenings in their area at Web sites like parentheartwatch.org.
To read the entire New York Times article, click here.