It might be strange to hear that your 15-year-old needs a heart test to run on the track team, but more and more, youth sports teams are adopting this screening to identify heart abnormalities and assess cardiovascular health in young athletes.
An ECG (also called an electrocardiogram or EKG) may be required of everyone for sports participation, or only those found to have abnormalities or high risk factors during a standard pre-participation physical. Currently, the decision to require ECGs is left up to the individual youth sports program. By identifying heart abnormalities that might otherwise go undetected, these screenings help prevent sudden cardiac death — the leading cause of death among young athletes.
During an ECG, your heart’s electrical signals are monitored through sticky pads (electrodes) that are attached to your arms, legs and chest. The pads are connected to a machine that records your heart’s activity as a line graph of peaks and valleys. A cardiologist interprets the report to assess normal resting heart function. The whole test takes about 10 to 15 minutes. If abnormalities are found, further cardiovascular testing may be required to identify the exact cause and determine if treatment is necessary.
An ECG increases early detection of some cardiac conditions associated with sudden cardiac death but no screening program provides absolute protection. There are many factors that can’t be assessed in an ECG. For example, an ECG shows the heart’s resting function, not a heart’s function while active – which can cause some “hidden” abnormalities to surface. Studies show that combining an ECG with a medical history and physical exam increases the likelihood of detecting conditions that may lead to sudden cardiac arrest.
UCF Health provides ECG tests for youth needing one for sports team participation. To schedule an appointment, call 407-266-DOCS.
Weekly Health Tips are brought to you by UCF Health, the College of Medicine’s physician practice. Offering primary and specialty care under one roof, UCF Health treats patients age 16 and up in primary care and age 18 and up for specialty care. Most major insurance plans are accepted. Two locations are now open: the original in East Orlando at Quadrangle and University boulevards just blocks from the main UCF campus, and the newest one in Medical City at Narcoossee Road and Tavistock Lakes Boulevard. Information for both facilities can be found at UCFHealth.com, or call (407) 266-DOCS to schedule an appointment.
- cardiovascular ECG EKG electrocardiogram sports physical