A new phase of specialist screening in sport “kicks off” this month

May 18 2018

Generous donation from charitable foundation secures ongoing expert testing for elite athletes

Leading heart charity, Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) is launching 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.”

Every week, 12 apparently fit and healthy young (aged 35 and under) people in the UK die suddenly from an undiagnosed heart defect. In 80% of these cases, there will have been no signs or symptoms until it is too late, which is why CRY believes screening is so vitally important (particularly for those involved in regular, physical activity). CRY now tests around 27,000 young people each year, aged between 14 and 35 and well over 150,000 since the screening programme was launched in 1995.

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.”

The vast majority of CRY’s community screenings are funded by families, such as the Dixons, who have been affected by a young sudden cardiac death, so there is no charge to the individual when CRY’s mobile cardiac screening service comes to a local venue.

However, increasingly sporting bodies (such as the FA, RFU, LTA and English Cricket) are now working directly with CRY’s screening experts to ensure its athletes are regularly tested as part of their duty of care.

CRY’s pioneering screening programme uses a very simple, effective and non-invasive way of diagnosing most cardiac abnormalities, called an electrocardiogram (ECG). If a young person is found to have an abnormality, CRY will also conduct an Echocardiogram (ultrasound) on the same day. Elite athletes will have both of these procedures as part of its sports screening initiative.

Professor Sanjay Sharma, the charity’s Consultant Cardiologist, supervises CRY’s screening programme and is the leading Sports Cardiologist in the UK. He is also recognised as one of the leading experts for Young Sudden Cardiac Death worldwide and is Medical Director for the Virgin Money London Marathon.


For more information, please contact Jo Hudson, CRY Press Office on 020 7112 4905 / 0770 948 7959 / jo.hudson@trinitypr.co.uk
For more information about CRY please go to: www.c-r-y.org.uk or www.testmyheart.org

Notes to editors:

About CRY:

• CRY is a charity founded in May 1995 to raise awareness of Cardiac Risk in the Young – Sudden Cardiac Death, Sudden Death Syndrome (SADS)
• CRY offers support to those who have suffered a loss through a network of affected families & Counselling
• CRY funds the CRY Inherited Cardiovascular Disease Clinic and the CRY Centre for Sports Cardiology at St George’s Hospital London and a word renowned research programme
• CRY funds the CRY Centre for Cardiac Pathology, a fast-track expert cardiac pathology service for Bereaved families, also based at St George’s Hospital. www.cry-ccp.org.uk
• CRY’s myheart network offers help, support and information to young people who are coping with a diagnosis of a heart condition. https://www.myheart.org.uk/

About The JD Foundation

• The JD Foundation is a registered charity founded by JD Sports Fashion plc in December 2015. (JD Sports is an international multichannel retailer of sports fashion and outdoors brands which includes Scotts, Tessuti, Size? Blacks, Millets). The mission of the Foundation is to support charities working with disadvantaged young people in the UK, affected by circumstance or illness. There are currently eleven youth charities supported by the Foundation and two environmental charities.

• The JD Foundation is delighted to hear that through our partnership with Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY), a further 8 screening sessions will be held in EIS centres around England, screening even more young people in memory of Aaron Dixon. This is the first-time part of the funding has been used to specifically to fund screening in sports.

• Since its launch The JD Foundation has donated £1.84million for the nominated charities, £102,095.00 going to The Aaron James Dixon Memorial Fund which has enabled so many young adults to be screened.
• The year long screening with CRY and the EIS will cost £28,000