A new NCAA-funded research study supports the addition of electrocardiogram (ECG) screening to the standardized pre-participation exams for athletes to better identify cardiac abnormalities that lead to sudden cardiac death (SCD) -- the leading cause of death in athletes during sport.
Jonathan Drezner, MD, President of the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM), along with a team of researchers from the University of Washington, will present their results from a recent study that was commissioned by the NCAA, entitled, "Electrocardiographic Screening in NCAA Athletes: A Multicenter Feasibility Trial in Division I Programs" this Friday at the AMSSM 22nd Annual Meeting in San Diego, Calif.
Their prospective, multicenter trial screened 2,471 male and female athletes from 14 NCAA Division I universities. In order to be eligible for the trial, athletes could not have received an ECG screening in the past. A total of seven (0.28%) athletes were diagnosed with serious cardiac disorders, all of which had abnormal ECGs and only two of which had an abnormal history or physical exam. Notably, 4 athletes were upperclassmen who underwent prior screening by history and physical exam alone but were not identified as having a disorder at risk for SCD.
Currently, ECG screening is not a required component of physical exams for NCAA athletes; however, according to NCAA estimates, nearly a dozen college student-athletes in the US suffer sudden cardiac arrest each year.
Results support that ECG screening in NCAA athletes is feasible, has a low false-positive rate, and provides superior accuracy compared to a standardized history and physical exam to detect athletes with potentially dangerous cardiovascular conditions. This study also applied new international consensus standards for ECG interpretation -- an important component that minimized false-positive results.
Dr. Drezner is a Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Washington, and Associate Director of the Sports Medicine Fellowship. Additionally he serves as team physician for the University of Washington and the Seattle Seahawks.
Cite This Page: