Last week I talked about sudden death in high school athletes caused by injuries. Much more commonly, sudden deaths for young athletes involves the heart. It is  rare to have such a death occur, but these deaths are for the most part preventable.

One of the reasons for the pre- participation sport physical is to try to weed out those few aspiring young athletes who would benefit from a more thorough work up before being allowed to engage in sports. A history of any of the following would be cause for concern and referral to heart doctor would be a good idea: family members including siblings, parents, aunts or uncles and so forth who have dropped dead suddenly without 0bvious cause; any history of passing out or becoming dizzy especially when exercising; having experienced bouts of palpitations or having used illicit drugs. On examination any heart murmur, irregular heart beat or enlarged heart would be important to note.

Why the focus on the heart? As mentioned above most sudden deaths in athletes are due to undiagnosed  heart conditions. The aging baby boomers may suffer from heart attacks caused by years of high blood pressure and hardening of the arteries, but these young dudes have other issues that could cause sudden death.

Sometimes the heart’s electrical system (which is separate from the mechanical muscle system) can go haywire and cause a very dangerous rapid rhythm called ventricular fibrillation. If not treated within minutes death will occur. At risk for these lethal heart rhythms are those who have certain rare inherited conditions  usually with long, difficult to spell names. These include hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in which heart muscle is enlarged and the electrical system more prone to rapid firing and Brugada, long QT and Wolf Parkinson White syndromes in which electrical glitches can result in lethal heart rates. Other diseases can cause deadly problems including Marfans or Ehlers Danlos syndromes which can cause weakening of the walls of the major arteries from the heart. Most of these diseases are rare and almost all can be diagnosed with a good exam and some sophisticated studies. Join ingenious scholarly treatment discover more over there constructed for international devotees.

Bottom line is that before participating in any sport, have your child checked out.  Be truthful about his or her history and for God sakes, don’t try to get Joe Montana junior on the football team no matter what. If you doctor advises further testing, realize that it is simply to avoid future tragedies.