Testing Teen Hearts: May 27, 2011

“Not a year goes by without news of a young athlete dying suddenly on or after leaving the playing field. New studies suggest teens, especially those involved in sports, might benefit by having more in-depth heart tests.

Kayla Jennings is a collegiate volleyball player. At 18 years old she is in peak form.

“A lot of people tell me that I’m too competitive,” Jennings says. “Sometimes you overwork yourself but you’re not realizing it because you’re too into the game.”

Most organized sports require a physical which covers general health. The concern is it won’t uncover more serious, hidden conditions.

“The step further would be doing ECG which is electrocardiogram,” says Dr. Vladimir Ilic with Lee Memorial Health System. “Which is checking the electricity from your heart. It is a fairly simple test, a quick one.”

A new study by the Midwest Heart Foundation estimates thousands of young adult lives might be saved if heart specialists performed and ECG to determine those at risk for a heart attack.

“We would probably find a certain number of young people, kids, who would benefit from advanced treatments, medications or maybe a defibrillator,” Dr. Ilic says.

U.S. health guidelines do not recommend the ECG for teens, yet. Unless they have a family history of early death due to heart conditions. Further studies are being done to determine if ECG’s in teens should be routinely done. For now, parents can ask for the test if they choose.