Many sports bodies recommend or insist that young athletes are screened for disorders implicated in exercise-related sudden cardiac death. 1 in 300 of the individuals tested are identified as having a potentially life threatening condition and 1 in 100 are identified with a less serious cardiac abnormality that may cause problems from the middle age.
There are currently approximately 600 cardiac deaths each year
under the age of 35 and most (75%) sudden cardiac deaths occur
without prior symptoms.
Research from Italy, where cardiac screening is mandatory for
people engaged in organised sport, shows that 90% of these deaths
could have been prevented if cardiac evaluation using an ECG had
been carried out.
How it works
The research behind this exhibit has focused on the structural
and electrical functioning of the heart and how it responds to
exercise. It has identified the upper limits of left ventricular
wall thickness and cavity size in adult and adolescent British
athletes. This helps to distinguish between physiology (cardiac
adaptation to exercise) and pathology (disease).
This distinction can be challenging for cardiologists but is
crucial when screening young athletes since incorrect
interpretation has the potential for serious consequences.
The research programme has also been important for understanding
what is normal. It has devised normal upper limits for cardiac
dimensions in athletes and characterised ECG changes in athletes in
a document that is now regarded as the blueprint for the European
Society of Sport Cardiology.
Apart from diagnostics, the research has also identified the
prevalence of conditions such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM)
in athletes. This includes recently identifying conditions such as
long QT syndrome as more common than HCM. The research team is also
the first to have looked at cardiac adaptation for Caribbean
athletes who differ from Caucasian athletes in the way they adapt
This video shows Professor Sanjay Sharma giving a presentation
on his research at the 2011 CRY International Conference.
This video shows Dr Nabeel Sheikh giving a summary of CRY's
cardiac screening procedures for athletes. More information
and videos are available on Cardiac Risk in the Young.
Lead image: Matt Wells (GB Rower and
Olympic Medallist) having a cardiac ultrasound conducted by