12-month elite athlete heart screening programme launched in memory of Aaron Dixon

CRY are pleased to announce the launch of a 12-month heart screening programme for elite athletes at key sites across the UK in memory of Aaron Dixon (who tragically died from an undiagnosed heart condition, aged just 23) and thanks to support from the JD Foundation.

The screenings will be delivered in partnership with the English Institute of Sport (EIS) which provides performance impacting sport science and sport medicine to over 1,300 elite athletes across more than 30 sports.

Over the past 5 years, the JD Foundation (the charitable arm of JD Sports Fashion plc) has donated more than £100k to support screening in memory of Aaron Dixon. This is the first time that a part of this fund has been used to specifically fund screening in sports.

The first of these newly funded sessions, providing vital heart screening for around 60 athletes, will take place on Friday 18 May 2018 at the EIS’s Performance Centre at the Bisham Abbey National Sports Centre in Buckinghamshire.

CRY has worked with the EIS for over a decade, providing world-class cardiac screening for elite sportsmen and women across the UK, from cycling to swimming, rowing to gymnastics. Initially launched in 2007 under the campaign name of “Save Our Athletes”, the successful screening programme screened around 1,500 athletes in the run up to the 2012 London Olympics.

CRY then took over the initiative in partnership with the EIS, committing to the screening of around 500 affiliated sportspeople every year. The announcement of this new funding from the JD Foundation will secure a further 8 screening sessions over the next 12 months at selected EIS centres around England.

Since 2011, the family and friends of Aaron Dixon have raised tens of thousands of pounds for CRY’s screening programme, leading to free, specialist testing of 1,690 young people (aged 14-35) so far. The Memorial Fund has also booked in a further seven community screenings this year and six in 2019, with capacity to test up to 100 young people on each day.

Aaron’s mum, Deborah Dixon, from Tarporley, Cheshire helped secure the recent funding from the JD Foundation. She says; “Aaron’s sudden and tragic death absolutely devastated our family, as well as our entire community.

“He was a seemingly fit and active young man and we thought he had his whole life in front of him. However, as a family, we knew his death could not be in vain and we had to do all we could to stop other families from ever having to experience the same agonising grief as we have.

She adds; “The number of young people we have screened in our local community already seems such an incredible tribute to Aaron and his life. But, to be able to provide testing for some of our top athletes in Aaron’s name, via CRY and the EIS is a huge and lasting legacy. We are so grateful to the The JD Foundation for its support.”

Sport itself does not actually cause sudden cardiac death but it can significantly increase a young person’s risk if they have an underlying condition. Although screening will not identify all those at risk, in Italy, where screening is mandatory for all young people engaged in organised sport, the incidence of young sudden cardiac death has decreased by 90%.”

Dr Steven Cox, CRY’s Chief Executive, adds, “We have a great heritage of working with English Institute of Sport and we’re delighted that this grant will fund the next 12 months of screening for UK athletes.

“There is a vast and growing body of international evidence – much of it led by CRY – to support the importance of pre-participation screening of those involved in professional sport. We are committed to maintaining this awareness and services across all elite sports, as well as increasing access to screening in grass roots sports – with the ultimate aim of preventing sudden cardiac death in young people.”

The EIS’s Director of Medical Services, Dr Rod Jaques explains: “Protecting the health and wellbeing of the athletes we work with is a key element of the EIS’s role in high performance sport. Our ongoing partnership with CRY is an important part of this and enables us to work with national governing bodies (NGBs) to provide a valuable screening service that can identify potential irregularities and issues among athletes and put in place measures to treat and address these.”