UNSUSPECTED HEART CONDITIONS ARE A SERIOUS THREAT TO YOUNG ATHLETES. EARLY DETECTION THROUGH DIAGNOSTIC TESTING IS THE BEST WAY TO PREVENT SUDDEN CARDIAC ARREST.

Diagnosis empowers athletes and their athletic trainers, coaches, and parents to make important decisions to effectively manage their health, whether that means undergoing further evaluation or surgery to fix a defect, coming to terms with physical limitations, or being aware of a condition that may pose serious consequences in the immediate future or later in life.

Pre-participation physical evaluations are not enough to protect student athletes. Many kids may not know their family history or may not want to report symptoms such as shortness of breath for fear of being pulled. Administering diagnostic tests is the best way to safeguard against tragedy.

Our comprehensive testing program includes EKG, echocardiogram, and vascular ultrasound to identify dangerous vascular conditions such as blood clots and asymptomatic cardiac abnormalities that can lead to sudden cardiac death. All tests are non-invasive and involve no radiation exposure.

Electrocardiogram (EKG) – measures the electrical activity of the heart

    Detects electrical abnormalities, such as Wolff-Parkinson-White, Long QT, and Brugada syndromes
    Wimbledon Health Partners applies the Seattle Criteria when reading EKGs to reduce false positive reporting to less than 5%

Echocardiogram (Echo) – uses sound waves to create a moving picture of the heart

    Identifies functional and structural abnormalities that cannot be detected by an EKG, such as congenital coronary artery anomalies, heart valve abnormalities, holes in the heart muscle, weakened heart muscle, and abnormal pressures within the heart chambers and lungs

Vascular Ultrasound – uses imaging to see how blood moves through arteries and veins, evaluating for any blood flow abnormalities

    Detects blood clots before they break free and travel to the lungs, which is called a pulmonary embolism, a potentially deadly condition
    Assesses for abnormal flow dynamics in extremity and abdominal vessels to which athletes are prone

Apprehension to evaluating large populations of young athletes for undiagnosed cardiovascular abnormalities is understandable. But not doing so could prove tragic.

A documented issue with EKGs, and a major reason wide scale EKGs have been opposed by the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology, is the high percentage of false positives—a valid concern.  With false positives as high as twenty percent, seemingly healthy student athletes are being told they can no longer play the sports they love until they undergo more extensive evaluation.

Over the past few years, a better understanding of the physiological and anatomical differences in athletes’ hearts have led to the development of a collection of criteria. By applying the Seattle Criteria to the reading of EKGs in the athletes tested by Wimbledon Health Partners, we are able to reduce the false positive rate to less than five percent. In recent test results, our echocardiography testing was able to confirm the true positive findings of the EKGs and refute those that were false positive.

There are serious cardiac abnormalities that can be detected through an echocardiogram, but not through an EKG, and vice versa. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is likely to generate an abnormal EKG, but is almost definitely detected with an echocardiogram. The second most common cause of sudden cardiac death in young athletes, congenital coronary artery anomalies, cannot be detected through EKG, but can with echocardiography. Electrical abnormalities, including Wolff-Parkinson-White, Long QT, and Brugada syndromes are identified only through EKG. The bottom line is that the two tests are complementary, and Wimbledon Health Partners administers both every time we evaluate an athlete.

Completing the puzzle with vascular ultrasound

Heart issues are not the only area of concern when it comes to student athletes. Blood clots are something most do not think affect healthy athletes but, in fact, risk factors common to athletes, such as dehydration, trauma, and long travel make them more susceptible to blood clots, which can be a real danger if left untreated. Clots can break loose and travel to a player’s lung, causing a life-threatening pulmonary embolism. Wimbledon Health Partners is the only company with an all-encompassing cardiovascular testing program to ensure all young athletes are safe and healthy before they take the field, track, or court.

Read More about Vascular Conditions

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Vascular Centers of America
Wimbledon Athletics
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