It’s the Doctors, Not the Test

The Stanford study released this week shows that pediatric cardiologists are not very good at interpreting the ECG exams.  This is an institutional problem that should be corrected by the medical community.  Unfortunately, articles like the one below, are misleading the public by suggesting that the tests that look for heart condition in student athletes are innacurate.  

Electrocardiograms are an inaccurate way to screen for heart defects that can cause sudden cardiac arrest in young athletes, according to a study in The Journal of Pediatrics.

The overall accuracy of the cardiologists was 67%. The findings add to the growing debate about how to protect the health of young athletes on playing fields. Sports programs in the USA have come under increasing pressure to require electrocardiograms in light of reports that sudden cardiac arrests (CSAs) are the leading cause of death of young athletes.

One of the most recent tragedies involved Michigan high school basketball player Wes Leonard, who collapsed and died March 3 when his heart stopped moments after sinking a game-winning basket to close his team’s perfect 20-0 season. The Fennville High athlete was 16.

While some European countries make the ECG tests mandatory, the American Heart Association’s 2007 guidelines call for a thorough pre-participation checkup — short of recommending an ECG — for the nation’s 10.7 million young athletes.

According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, the frequency and thoroughness of pre-performance physical exams varies from state to state. “Some are every year, while others are every two years,” spokesman Bob Colgate says. “There might still be some who don’t require exams.”

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