Cardiovascular Screening Practices and Attitudes From the NCAA Autonomous “Power” 5 Conferences

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Abstract

Background:

The development of athlete-specific electrocardiogram (ECG) interpretation standards, along with recent rates of sudden cardiac death (SCD) in athletes being higher than previously estimated, has heightened the debate in the sports medicine community regarding cardiovascular screening of the college athlete, including whether certain high-risk subsets, such as male basketball athletes, should undergo more intensive screening.

Hypothesis:

ECG and/or echocardiography screening in National Collegiate Athletic Association Autonomous 5 Division I (A5DI) schools will be more common than previous reports, and there will be more frequent use of noninvasive cardiac screening for men’s basketball players than the general athlete population.

Study Design:

Cross-sectional, quantitative study.

Level of Evidence:

Level 4.

Methods:

The head team physician for each of the 65 schools in the A5DI conferences was contacted to complete an anonymous survey regarding cardiovascular screening practices at their institution. The survey inquired about current screening protocols, whether SCD epidemiology (SCD-E) was considered in establishing those practices, and whether awareness of present epidemiology altered physician attitudes toward screening.

Results:

A total of 45 of the 65 team physicians (69%) responded. All schools reported performing history and a physical evaluation. While 17 (38%) perform only history and physical, 26 (58%) also include an ECG, and 12 (27%) include echocardiography for all student-athletes. Specifically for male basketball athletes, 10 (22%) schools perform only history and physical, 32 (71%) include ECG, and 20 (45%) include echocardiography. Additionally, 64% reported using SCD-E in developing their screening protocol. Those that had not considered SCD-E indicated they were unlikely to change their screening protocol when presented with current SCD-E.

Conclusion:

The majority (62%) of A5DI institutions include ECG and/or echocardiography as part of their cardiovascular screening of all athletes, increasing to 78% when specifically analyzing male basketball athletes.

Clinical Relevance:

A5DI institutions, presumably with greater resources, have largely implemented more intensive cardiovascular screening than just history and physical for all student-athletes and specifically for men’s basketball—the athlete group at greatest risk.

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