Tragedies on the sport field.

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One football program. Five years. Six deaths. Two life-altering injuries. Earlier this year I visited Tarleton University in Stephenville, Texas, "The Cowboy Capital of the world". I was devastated to hear about the tragedies that hammered this small community over the last few years. The immediate question that jumps to one's mind is, Why does this happen? Is this totally random, or could it be prevented? 

Why are tragedies happening on the sports field?

In the US, 10 to 15 million athletes participate in organized sport. Fewer than 300 die annually due to a cardiovascular cause, but with head injuries are the main cause for sports deaths. In the bigger picture, this is not a lot of fatal incidents, but are highly visible events with significant liability considerations.

Pre-participation examinations (PPE) are a rite of passage for young athletes. Will it minimize the number of tragedies? The fact is, PPEs are a challenge for most healthcare providers. And it is usually a last minute job.

A study published in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine examined PPE in clinical practice among AAP members and family practitioners in the State of Washington. Many participants reported barriers to the effective performance of PPE:

  • 37% were unsure on how to perform PPE.
  • 50% were unsure about the relative importance of a PPE.
  • 58% reported a lack of standardized approach.
  • 63% felt they did not have enough time with patients.

Guidance for performing effective PPEs is readily available and provided by the AAP and ACSM. The ACC also provides a specific statement on Cardiovascular Screening for competitive athletes

The objective of preparticipation screening is to recognize those "silent" killers. The best practice approach do include history-taking (personal and family) and a comprehensive physical examination. However, these methods do have limitations to consistently identify significant abnormalities and usually not well documented. Traceability of these examinations is also a challenge. The ACC is also questioning the quality of the cardiovascular screening. A large component of the cardiovascular screening focusses on heart murmur detection and irregular heart rates. This is a major challenge, even for experienced healthcare workers.

According to the ACC Statement, healthcare workers with different levels of training are allowed to perform PPEs in several states. A standardized process would result in a greater number of athletes identified with previously unsuspected but clinical relevant cardiovascular abnormalities.

Does your organization have a process in place to capture and store PPE data, family, and personal history, as well as physical examination information? How can the latest cardiac screening technology assist you to screen for those "relative" silent defects? 

Learn more on how you can use SensiCardiac for PPEs here.

Read more on the Tarleton tragedies here.

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