Answers to Athletes and Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Premier Health providers and athletic trainers answer frequently asked questions about sudden cardiac arrest.

Should all athletes have more advanced cardiac screenings prior to participating in athletics, or only those athletes with red flags in their medical history?

Dr. Jeffrey James discusses the appropriate time to use advanced cardiac screenings for high school and college athletes. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.


As far as screening all athletes for cardiac disease, they definitely need to have an adequate medical history and physical exam. The jury is still out as to whether doing advanced cardiac screening on every athlete is beneficial. There are too many “what if's” in this situation. There is tremendous cost involved in screening every single athlete. We don't know if the benefits outweigh the risks of screening everyone. The false positives can be too high. Then we might be removing a lot of athletes or kids from their competitions who may not truly have problems. 

Anyone who has red flags definitely should get advanced screening, such as an electrocardiogram and further evaluation with a cardiologist. Red flags include an abnormal family history, an abnormal personal history and any symptoms such as chest pain during exertion, fainting spells, passing out after or during competition or dizziness with competition. 

Dr. Sean Convery discusses the debate over when to use advanced cardiac screenings for high school and college athletes. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.


The overwhelming concern is false positives and inappropriately holding kids out of sports and activities when they don't need to be out.

If the screening is done correctly, the false positive numbers can be reduced to a low and acceptable range. If you have an abnormal physical examination, an abnormal history or an abnormal EKG, you move into the more advanced testing, which involves a visit with a cardiologist who is knowledgeable in athletic heart conditions for a specific age group. More testing might follow, like an echocardiogram. If that's abnormal, you proceed to the next level, which could require a cardiac catheterization. That would be rare, but those are the steps to take.

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Chelsea L. Gilliam, APRN-CNP, AGACNP-BC

Piqua Family Practice

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Source: Michael W. Barrow, MD, Samaritan North Family Physicians; American Heart Association; National Institutes of Health; Nik Berger, MS, AT, ATC, Premier Health Sports Medicine – Miami Valley Hospital South; Jeffrey James, DO, Premier Orthopedics; Sean Convery, MD, Premier Orthopedics; Jeffrey Rayborn, MD, Premier Orthopedics