Four More Young Athletes Suffer Sudden Cardiac Arrest - Wimbledon Health Partners Responds with Complete Cardiac Test Regimen

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Recent news of sudden cardiac arrest in young athletes prompts Wimbledon Health Partners to urge schools to test students for unsuspected cardiac abnormalities using professionally administered EKGs and echocardiograms.

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Even though an EKG for a young athlete may be normal, that individual’s life may still be at risk, and it is important for parents and coaches to understand this.

Wimbledon Health Partners, the industry leader in on-site diagnostic testing for physicians and athletic programs, recommends professionally administered EKGs in conjunction with echocardiograms to test student athletes for unsuspected cardiac abnormalities that can contribute to sudden cardiac death.

Recent news of young athletes suffering sudden cardiac arrest has elevated the need for widespread cardiac testing on athletes who are of high school and college age. High school football player Xavier Ramirez nearly died last month after suffering sudden cardiac arrest from an undiagnosed anomalous coronary artery—an abnormality that could have been detected through an echocardiogram(1). YouTube star Caleb Bratayley, at 13, died last month from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy(2)—the leading cause of sudden cardiac death in young competitive athletes, and something that is caught through cardiac testing. An undiagnosed heart condition recently took youth footballer Wyatt Barber’s life(3), and high school freshman Trevor Newhouse is lucky to be alive after suffering sudden cardiac arrest during a soccer game in October(4). The cause? Undiagnosed hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

In all of these cases, the young athletes and their families were not aware these heart conditions existed, until it was too late. They were all described as healthy, some with clean physical examinations. Many times the first symptoms of sudden cardiac arrest are tragically also the last, making it very important to diagnose these disorders as early as possible through professionally administered EKGs and echocardiograms—something that Wimbledon Health Partners is doing on a national scale.

Grassroots organizations, many started by mothers who have lost young sons and daughters to sudden cardiac arrest, are responding to the need for more cardiac testing by administering EKG testing on a local level. While these mostly volunteer-led efforts are noteworthy, reputable, and have helped to save young lives, more can be done in order to perform a more effective job, according to Bradley Artel, MD, FACC, Chief Medical Officer at Wimbledon Health Partners.

“The performance of EKGs is definitely a laudable initial effort,” says Dr. Artel, “however even though an EKG for a young athlete may be normal, that individual’s life may still be at risk, and it is important for parents and coaches to understand this.” Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is likely to generate an abnormal EKG, but not always. The second most common cause of sudden cardiac death in young athletes, congenital coronary artery anomalies, cannot be detected through an EKG. “If we want to do our best to prevent sudden cardiac death in young athletes, we should perform both an EKG and an echocardiogram. There are serious cardiac abnormalities that can be detected through an echocardiogram, but not through an EKG, and vice versa,” he states.

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. Athletes’ hearts are different, Dr. Artel explains, and these physiological and anatomical differences affect EKG patterns. “What is detected as abnormal in a sedentary person can very well be normal for a competitive athlete,” he says.

To address these differences, a team of international physicians developed a register of criterions collectively known as the Seattle Criteria, which when applied to the reading of EKGs in athletes, reduces the false positive rate to less than five percent. Dr. Artel is trained in the Seattle Criteria, and is the sole cardiologist reading the EKGs performed by Wimbledon Health Partners.

In addition, Dr. Artel, who is double-board certified in cardiology and echocardiography, vets all Wimbledon Health Partners’ sonographers and oversees the reading of echocardiograms by trusted cardiologists with whom he is in constant communication—sometimes watching a live stream over his phone. “The quality of our imaging is comparable to what you would see at hospitals where I have worked,” he comments. “I know when I close my eyes at night, we have done our best to ensure a young athlete is safe on the field, or has a plan for addressing a cardiac condition we have identified.”

About Wimbledon Health Partners:

Wimbledon Health Partners formed in 2013 to meet the need for on-site diagnostic testing at physicians’ offices. The industry leader, Wimbledon Health Partners provides physicians with state-of-the-art, in-office testing to detect circulatory conditions and cardiac abnormalities using vascular ultrasound and echocardiography. Nerve conduction velocity testing is also used to support the diagnosis of problems related to the nervous and muscular systems.

About Wimbledon Athletics:

Wimbledon Athletics, the newest division of Wimbledon Health Partners, is pioneering the way for high schools, colleges and universities to test students for unsuspected cardiac abnormalities to help minimize sudden cardiac death among young athletes.

For more information on how your office or school can partner with Wimbledon Health Partners, go to http://www.dxtesting.com or call us at (855) 200-8262.

(1) Nicholas Talbot, November 17, 2015, http://lubbockonline.com/local-news/2015-11-17/matters-heart-slatons-xavier-ramirez-recovering-after-open-heart-surgery#.Vk4lwHarSUk

(2) Andrea Park, November 10, 2015, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/bratayley-family-reveals-cause-of-death-for-son-caleb/

(3) Lindsay Kriz, November 3, 2015, http://mydailysentinel.com/top-stories/2518/nine-year-old-dies-during-eastern-football-practice

(4) Rahel Solomon, November 3, 2015, http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/2015/11/03/player-collapses-during-game/

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Cynda Perun
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