Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sudden Cardiac Death - Is it Healthy to be an Athlete?

In the USA, an average of 90 top athletes die suddenly every year--- often they collapse while going full-out, in the fierce heat of competition.

Why? Their magnificent hearts simply fail.

Suddenly, yes, without warning, their hearts seize up, and stop. And no one knew--- not their parents, their coaches, their doctors.

They are victims of "Sudden Cardiac Death." And everyone is stunned, surprised, crushed.

Like the two top teenage athletes in New Jersey, who died last year.

They both suffered hypertrophic cardiomyopathy--- and the worst of the tragedy is that their dangerous condition could have been screened, with a routine and low-cost electrocardiogram, or EKG.

In the US, one study, (published in The Journal of the American Medical Association in 2006), resulted in a call for EKG athlete screening.

The wheels of public health grind slowly. There is much talk about public screening programs for all athletes in school. But much debate in the USA makes that unlikely.

For 30 years, the Italian Ministry of Health required screening for their competitive athletes. They also tracked the results.

Italian cardiac screening (of athletes 14-35) lowered cardiac deaths by 89 percent!

The European Society of Cardiology and the International Olympic Committee now urge EKG screening for all competitive athletes.

But in the US, no such urging--- the American Heart Association still recommends the standard medical history and physical exam.

Does it cost too much to save those lives? The Annals of Internal Medicine published a computer simulation, demonstrating how American athletes (14 to 22 years old) would be affected by screening.

Adding an EKG would save 2.06 more life-years per 1,000 athletes at an additional cost of $89 per athlete--- including all secondary examinations and treatment.

Unbelievable! What a deal! Over 2 more years of life for the cost of an I-pod?

“It’s as fair a statement as I’ve ever seen on the cost-effectiveness of EKG screening,” said Dr. Robert J. Myerburg, a cardiologist and professor of medicine at the University of Miami.

Still, the US government may never take this simple cost-effective life-saving action. Just look at the swamp of reaction in congress to anything that seems constructive or progressive.

Bottom line--- why wait? if you or your child is competing, get a private screening.

Be proactive. Protect yourself and your loved ones.

89 USD buys 2.06 years? I'll take a dozen!

Get the EKG!

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