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Kosnitzky’s Korner: Should We Require EKG Testing as Part of Physical Clearance Policy?

Kosnitzky’s Korner: Should we require EKG or ECG testing as part of the physical and clearance policy for all high school athletes?

After reading the inspiring story on James Peek (link), I was excited to learn that someone’s dreams and aspirations may not have to end despite the seriousness of the condition. Peek is a DB for Jesuit High in Tampa, Florida, who underwent heart surgery on May 20, and is back on the practice field with his teammates, participating in another high school football season. While this story has a happy ending, it left me with questions.

In light of all of the stories regarding concussions, and now PEDs, I wondered if it may be beneficial to require electrocardiogram (EKG) or echocardiogram (ECG) testing as part of the physical and clearance policy for all high school athletes. I assumed this would be an easy answer since it could promote student safety and save students’ lives. Then I wondered that if this is designed for the common good then why is this policy not in place at this time at least in my state of Florida?

To my surprise, the research is mixed.  The Boston Research Group (link) found that only 1 out of 220,000 competitive athletes died from a sudden heart related problem and that a cost of $150 per screening makes any positive outcome inconsequential. The Division of Cardiovascular Research of the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation (link)  considers electrocardiograms an unproven technique that provides false results. However, an Italian Study (link) found that routine screenings led to a 90% decrease in sudden cardiac deaths and other interest groups confirmed these results.

Despite the differing views, the American Heart Association (AHA) and the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) are clear. AHA does not recommend the use of EKG’s during the pre-screening process but feels these measures “may be used as part of a follow-up procedure.” FHSAA, in accordance with their bylaws, does not require but only “advises that the student should undergo a cardiovascular assessment.”

What does all of this mean? It means that every student should consider taking every reasonable precaution. However, if an athlete refuses to participate in a heart related screening process; he will proceed at his own risk.

*** Follow me on twitter at @akosnitzky

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  1. Pingback: Kosnitzky’s Korner: Follow Up: EKG Screenings | Varsity Preps

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