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The headlines rally entire communities around a teen: A developing athlete collapses on the field and is later diagnosed with a previously unnoticed heart condition.
Arkansas Children's Hospital sees a case like this nearly every few years, while the incidence of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) in high school athletes is approximately one in every 100,000. In 2015, two teens from Batesville High School collapsed in separate incidents and were revived using CPR and AEDs on the field. Today both are successful Batesville alumni who receive continued heart care at Arkansas Children's.
Parents, coaches and teens all wonder, "What can I do to prevent this from happening to us?" Cardiologists agree that identifying athletes at risk is key to preventing sudden cardiac arrest among teens.
Cardiologist Dr. Brian Eble and Arkansas Children’s urge parents to be champions for their children by:
There's still a lot we don't know about what causes these rare cases of sudden cardiac arrest in teens. Research has shown a combination of underlying disease and high-intensity sports play a significant role.
American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology have developed a comprehensive health screening to help identify which athletes might be at risk. Their checklist looks at criteria ranging from chest pain during exercise to a history of relatives younger than 50 who died from heart disease.
There are steps doctors can take with their patients to make sure they can still participate as an athlete as long as the risk factors are identified.
Half of the children who die in these scenarios have personal or family warning signs.
The most worrisome and frequent signs include:
Some families want to know whether every athlete should receive an ECG. Dr. Eble shares that these tests are difficult to interpret and don't necessarily show relevant markers for a heart condition. At this time an ECG is not recommended for all athletes in the U.S. until more conclusive research can be done.
Instead, Dr. Eble and experts in his field recommend primary prevention and preparation.