Written by Judith Lazol, MD Each year sports participants are asked to have a physical exam before the start of the school activities. Assurance of a normal blood pressure, good joint functions and adequately keen vision and proper height are […]
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Screening Young Athletes for Heart Problems

by Baylor Scott & White Staff on May 2, 2014

in Healthy Living

Written by Judith Lazol, MD

Athlete-screening-picEach year sports participants are asked to have a physical exam before the start of the school activities. Assurance of a normal blood pressure, good joint functions and adequately keen vision and proper height are part of the examination. Over the past years, schools have recognized the importance and benefits of including the heart, in the assessment for size and function. Hence the concern for abnormal heart conditions like hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is now being addressed especially in adolescent athletes.

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is a condition wherein the heart muscle becomes abnormally thick. The arrangement of the muscle fibers becomes distorted and in disarray causing the heart to become less efficient in pumping blood into the general circulation.

The thickened muscle tissue may also affect the electrical activity of the heart, which is responsible for the automatic and synchronized beating of the organ. The abnormal electrical impulses can lead to abnormal heart rhythms or even sudden death.

HCM is the most common inherited disease of the heart and affects one in 500 people, though almost half of patients with HCM may have acquired it as spontaneous genetic mutation. The onset of symptoms usually coincides during the rapid growth and development of late childhood and early adolescence.

The strenuous exercise of competitive sports has been known to make symptoms of HCM apparent, making HCM is the leading cause of sudden death in young people, mostly young athletes.

There are great variations on how HCM presents, and often times it goes undiagnosed. Many people don’t experience any significant health problems and are unaware that they have HCM. Some experience shortness of breath during exercise, chest pain, lightheadedness or dizziness, etc. Others present abnormal heart rhythms, placing them at risk of sudden death if left unattended.

In general, HCM can be diagnosed by an ultrasound exam of the heart (echocardiogram) by measuring the thickness of the heart muscle. An ECG (electrocardiogram), which records the electrical impulses in the heart, may also show evidence of the thickened heart or abnormal electrical activity in the heart. This simple and non-invasive testing can screen for potential serious problems and provide opportunities for appropriate medical management.

Our cardiology team at McLane Children’s Scott & White is dedicated to providing quality care to patients with HCM. Each year, we hold free HCM screenings for young athletes, ages 14 to 18. This year screenings will be held on May 17 from 8 a.m. to noon at the McLane Children’s Specialty Clinic, 2nd floor, in Temple. You may also visit our website for more details and to register online. Space is limited, so sign up today!

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