Standards set for screening heart ailments in young athletes Heart Association issues 1st national guidelines


With the beginning of the school year approaching, the American Heart Association yesterday issued the first national recommendations for screening high-school and college athletes for fatal heart ailments.

Such ailments are responsible for the rare instances when seemingly healthy young people collapse and die on the playing field. Though it is unknown precisely how often this happens, the heart association estimates that the incidence of sudden cardiac death among high-school athletes is from 1 in 100,000 to 1 in 300,000. Older athletes appear to be at greater risk.

"When a superbly conditioned young athlete in seemingly perfect health dies while playing sports, it strikes to the core of our sensibilities," said Dr. Barry J. Maron, director of cardiovascular research at the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation and chairman of the heart association panel that wrote the guidelines.

Maron said that parents and others understandably wanted to know whether medical evaluation could have saved the person's life.

Dr. William B. Strong, chief of pediatric cardiology at the Medical College of Georgia and a member of the panel, said that if applied nationwide, the new recommendations could identify 50 percent of the young athletes at risk.

The goal of the screening is to inform these young people of their risk so they will have the option of withdrawing from competitive sports.

These are the first universally-accepted standards for screening young athletes for heart ailments.

Pub Date: 8/15/96

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