New Study Finds Too Few Doctors Screening Young Athletes for Heart Problems; Should There Be Stricter Guidelines?

With the focus of protecting young athletes from concussions is at the forefront, monitoring heart health might have fallen to the wayside. Until now. At the annual American Heart Association ("AHA") meeting, a study was presented showing that less than half of physicians actually screened for heart problems in young athletes. In fact, twenty-eight percent failed to ask about whether or not patients ever experienced chest pain during exercise, twenty-two percent didn't ask about unexplained fainting, and a whopping sixty-seven percent failed to discuss family history! Adding to the problem, only six-percent of high school athletic directors in one state were even aware of these guidelines.

In response, the AHA issued new guidelines aimed at helping doctors detect these problems earlier to prevent what has become more common in the news-a young athlete dying on the playing field due to one of these undetected heart problems. Further, the guidelines push education on coaches to also help them recognize the problems too.
The new guidelines list eight very specific questions that look at the medical-history, and four key elements in a physical exam of the athlete. The questions are even very obvious, but are still not being asked. For example, doctors need to ask if the athlete has chest pain during their exercise, unexplained fainting, and really investigate their family history of heart disease.

With the seven million high school athletes estimated to be playing sports in the United States, one out of every 30-to-50,000 will die each year due to sudden cardiac death. Of these deaths, the main cause was hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, or a thickening of the heart muscle.

I think these are absolutely EASY and NECESSARY questions to ask and a very simple thing for a physician to do! How hard is it? When trying to rush through as many patients in a day as possible, doctors could be spreading themselves too thin. Granted, that primary care and pediatric physicians need to move quickly to make a living, these questions could be easily disposed of in most cases. And when they aren't, they would be completely necessary and could save a life.

But what do you think? I would love to hear from you! Leave a comment or I also welcome your phone call on my toll-free cell at 1-866-889-6882 or you can drop me an e-mail at [email protected] . You are always welcome to request my FREE book, The Seven Deadly Mistakes of Malpractice Victims, at the home page of my website at www.protectingpatientrights.com.
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