More than 8 million students are playing high school and college sports in the United States, but there is not enough attention given to the threat young athletes face when it comes to their hearts.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest is caused by an abnormality in the heart’s electrical system or structure that abruptly stops the heartbeat. It is the leading cause of death on school campuses. The American Heart Association reports that every 3 days in the U.S., a young athlete dies from sudden cardiac arrest. The threat is real.


Congenital heart defects are present at birth. They are the most common type of birth defect in the United States and include abnormalities in the heart’s structure, electrical system, and other abnormalities that affect the function of the heart. According to the American Heart Association, over 1.3 million Americans alive today have some form of congenital heart defect.

Other types of heart abnormalities are inherited and develop with growth, usually in late teens or early twenties. Still other diseases of the heart muscle can develop as a result of viral infections and certain medications. These types tend to be progressive and can worsen quickly.

If left undiagnosed, heart abnormalities can cause sudden cardiac death in young athletes, often during physical activity.


Oftentimes, the first symptom of an undetected heart condition is sudden cardiac arrest.

Students who are physically fit and active may be completely unaware they have something wrong with their hearts. The majority simply do not experience anything indicating a heart problem. Others believe shortness of breath or dizziness is caused by exertion and will work harder to get stronger, putting their lives at risk. Physical exams (including family history and listening to the heart with a stethoscope) cannot pick up most underlying cardiac issues.

Electrocardiograms (EKGs) measure the electrical activity of the heart, detecting electrical abnormalities. Echocardiograms (echoes) are ultrasounds of the heart that identify functional and structural abnormalities that cannot be detected by an EKG. Both tests should always be performed because there are serious cardiac abnormalities that can be detected through an echo, but not through an EKG, and vice versa.

Test your Knowledge on Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Cardiac abnormalities are not the only concern when it comes to student athletes. Risk factors common to athletes, such as long travel, dehydration, and trauma, make them more susceptible to vascular conditions.

Vascular ultrasound testing identifies vascular conditions common to athletes, including blood clots (which can lead to pulmonary embolisms), damage to blood vessels due to trauma during physical activity, and inadequate blood flow to the digestive system, symptoms of which are likely to be brushed off, ignored completely, or never reported.


Cardiovascular testing detects unsuspected heart abnormalities and vascular conditions in student athletes.

  • Early detection allows you to have a cardiovascular condition in your child treated before something happens

  • Early detection gives you knowledge about your child’s health that could affect him or her in the present and/or future

  • Early detection could help save your child’s life by giving him or her the chance to stop a life-threatening activity


“Mothers need to understand that we can lose our children! Having the option to address an issue detected through a heart exam is a blessing, and I’m extremely grateful my son got tested.”
Mrs. Powell Dorsey, Mother of Jordan Powell
“Knowing Kenny could have died out there on the track had he not been tested is something I think about all the time. All schools ought to be checking their students for these conditions so that more lives can be saved.”
“I think that most parents are unaware of potential heart problems that could affect their children, like I was. Parents are dedicated to helping their children succeed in sports and are not thinking about things that can take them out of the game or, worse, cause death.”
“Even if there are symptoms, we don’t know they are symptoms. I felt more tired than usual but didn’t associate it with a heart problem. I thought I was out of shape, that I needed to work harder to get stronger.”
“Parents, please listen—do not take for granted that your son or daughter is healthy. If your school offers cardiac testing, do it. Make sure your child goes. And if your school doesn’t offer it, tell them you think they should.”
Alberta Price, Mother of Malik Allen
“The need for tests that can pick up these heart conditions is clear. Looking back, there were signs that something wasn’t quite right with Mike, but not for a second did we associate it with a heart problem that would take his life.”
“There really isn’t any history of any medical problems in our family. My diagnosis was a complete shock. Everyone in my family—we eat right, exercise, stay healthy. I never expected anything like this.”
“So many kids out there with heart conditions just don’t have any symptoms. Or parents and kids don’t think anything much about what they are feeling. I thought at first that Justin was having panic attacks.”
“As his mother, all I could think was that my son had survived a condition kids are dying from all over the world.”

Ready to sign up your child for cardiovascular testing?

Wimbledon Athletics
Wimbledon Radiology - Cardiology
Vascular Centers of America