ECG as a part of the preparticipation screening programme: an old and still present international dilemma

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IntroductionLong-term Italian experience has provided evidence that preparticipation screening in competitive athletes with 12-lead ECG, history and physical examination is effective in identifying potentially lethal cardiovascular diseases. However, it is not being routinely practised in other countries.ObjectivesTo evaluate the usefulness of a preparticipation screening programme in a sample of players belonging to different disciplines.Material and methodsFrom September 2006 to June 2008, 1220 young athletes from different sports disciplines underwent a cardiovascular examination that included personal and family history, physical examination and a resting 12-lead ECG. Those with abnormal findings were referred for additional tests.Results1220 Athletes were screened: 96% males; mean age 23 (4) years. 90 (7.4%) players were referred for additional tests because of abnormal findings on baseline examination: 11 (0.9%) personal or family history, 4 (0.08%) physical examination and 75 (6.14%) 12-lead ECG. Echocardiographic assessment fulfilled left ventricular hypertrophy criteria in 8 of the 90 players. Of those, one case was considered an athlete's heart and one case was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (septal thickness 23 mm). Further tests were needed in the remaining six, included in the “grey area”, with one additional case of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (apical variant) suggested by cardiac MRI.ConclusionGiven the ability of 12-lead ECG to detect individuals with structural heart disease, we suggest its inclusion as a part of preparticipation screening programmes.

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