With Spring and Summer sports seasons rapidly approaching, young athletes
everywhere will begin putting new stresses on their hearts. We recommend
having young athletes you love examined by their physician for heart conditions
before the season starts, since genetic heart abnormalities are the most
common cause of sudden death in young athletes. The most common heart
abnormality that causes sudden death is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM),
a genetic enlarging of the heart, according to the
American Heart Association (AHA).
“Hypertrophic” means an abnormal growth of stiff muscle fibers
in the heart, which makes it difficult for the heart to relax and fill
the heart’s chambers with blood. The heart pumps normally, but with
not enough blood, especially during vigorous exercise. Some children and
young adults have no symptoms, while others have abnormal heart rhythms,
shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pain or fainting.
Screening America recommends screening for HCM in young athletes ages 18 to 34 years old.
If your child’s primary care physician suspects HCM, he or she will
refer your child to a cardiologist for tests. Testing for HCM includes
an electrocardiogram, or EKG, a test which sends electrical signals through
the heart, an echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart) to check for thickened
walls and blood tests for abnormal proteins and sugars in the heart that
point to increased wall thickness, according to the AHA.
If your Saint Francis cardiologist suspects HCM, he or she will recommend
not playing competitive sports. Your family member may be allowed to participate
in low-impact activities at the discretion of their cardiologist.
Ask your child’s physician to check for any heart abnormalities
during their sports physical at Saint Francis. A screening for HCM could
prevent the devastating death of a loved one. You can make an appointment
with a cardiologist at
Partners in Cardiovascular Health