According to an article in the journal Circulation in the US, on average, a competitive athlete dies every three days from SCD, often due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, an undetected congenital heart condition. It’s an abnormal thickening of muscles in the heart’s left lower chamber.
Gianmichel Corrado, head team physician at Northeastern University, leads a research team that is developing a new pre-participation screening practice to identify athletes at a risk for SCD. With this, physicians will be able to use a portable ultrasound machine that will detect abnormalities of the heart. This protocol machine has been tested with Northeastern athletes and the results are quite impressive. It’s significantly faster, accurate, and cheaper as well. It showed a 33 % reduced rate of athletes referred to a cardiologist for false positive heart abnormalities.
They have been doing meticulous research on it for many years now. The screening was performed on 65 male student-athletes between ages 18 and 25, with the standard history and physical test, an EKG, and an echocardiogram. It was performed by Corrado. The echocardiogram cut the referral rate to cardiologists, resulting from false positives, by one-third.
Corrado says that if these echocardiograms are done regularly, an underlying pathological condition can be detected earlier and be treated before it becomes too late. The current screening methods used are not totally reliable as they are vague and have been largely criticised for false positives. Corrado says that at several other universities, sports medicine physicians have expressed interest in the echo protocol. He has another clinical study ready for publication that includes both an efficiency and cost analysis of the three screening methods.