Sports physicals may identify heart risks

July 31, 2012

Topic: Injury prevention

Marathons may be safe for the hearts of senior elite runners.

Parents of active students who cannot wait to return to school athletics should consider taking their children to see a doctor for a sports physical. These consultations are good for injury prevention because they can identify health risks that may be aggravated by physical activity, such as musculoskeletal problems.

Additionally, a sports physical may help identify individuals who are at risk for sudden cardiac death (SCD).

"SCD occurs when abnormal heart rhythms, exacerbated by physical activity lead to an abrupt cardiac arrest. The causes of SCD range from congenital defects, infections, or genetic abnormalities," Levi Stone, the chief nursing officer at Odessa Regional Medical Center, wrote in Odessa American.

Another potential cause is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, or a thickening of the heart muscle. Unfortunately, this condition does not always present symptoms until it is too late.

However, a sports physical may include tests that can identify risks for SCD. For example, an electrocardiogram of the heart could detect abnormal rhythms. These results should be shared with an athlete's primary care doctor.

According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, people who are at risk for SCD include those who have a family history of heart arrhythmias.

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