This weekend, my Garden State Skating Club friends and I came out to support the 2nd annual Nicole Heart Foundation 5K Run/Walk. The event is to honor the memory of Nicole Trott who passed away from an undiagnosed congenital heart defect, just days after her 18th birthday and high school graduation in 2011. The Foundation's mission is to foster greater awareness and education of the importance of cardiac screening and prevent future sudden unexpected tragedies from this illness. Proceeds of the event will help fund cardiac screening for high school athletes. These pre-sport heart screenings are not cost effective because athletic sudden cardiac death is a rare event.
I know of an Olympic skater who I had lessons with during my summers in Lake Placid, NY who suffered from sudden cardiac arrest a few years ago. It is Paul Wylie, 1992 Silver Olympic medalist, and he had suddenly collapsed while running and was in coma for two days before he came out of it. A cardiac screening would not have detected the electrical malfunction that caused his heart to stop. Consequently, screening in young athletes remains a controversial issue and a heated debate topic. According to the article, 'Screening Athletes for Heart Disease', in the July 2007 issue of the Heart Journal, it is recommended screenings be done every year (or two years wth new health history) before training for the sport begins. However, there are issues with having required screenings which include false alarms and screenings which have not proven to fully prevent sudden cardiac death (except for a study done in Italy which has shown reduced deaths with screenings). However, pre-screenings should be considered if you have a family history of premature sudden death, personal history of heart disease and experience cardiac symptoms.