Whilst the majority of people with cardiac conditions will be diagnosed following routine cardiac screening, we have always known that some conditions will not be identified. In the general population this is a small percentage of those we routinely test. It may be these conditions are acquired after the screening or in the case of cardiomyopathy it may not have presented (developed) in the teenage years. For competitive athletes who are pushing their bodies to the limit these conditions can pose an even greater danger as we know sport increases the risk for those with underlying conditions.
The latest CRY supported research published in the New England Journal of Medicine, one of the most prestigious medical journals in the world, shows that in elite footballers the incidence of these “late onset” conditions and the devastating impact they can have is much higher than previously believed. This is why it is recommended for elite competitive athletes to be routinely tested on a regular basis into early adulthood.
Currently there is no evidence to show these late onset conditions pose a significant threat to the general population (i.e. people with normal exercise regimes). However, we will continue to research this to ensure we offer the best advice on how often young people should be tested.
This paper by Dr Aneil Malhotra et al., also addresses one of the major issues often used as an argument against screening, namely the impact on those diagnosed. Historically it has often been perceived that a diagnosis of a cardiac condition in screening would be career ending for a young aspiring professional athlete. However, this research showed that 75% of those diagnosed with a potentially life threatening condition were able to return to the sport they love after receiving clinical advice and corrective surgery. Whilst most could return to competitive sport, some were advised not to. Tragically two of the deaths which occurred after the screening were in athletes who continued to exercise at unsafe levels.
It is a huge achievement to have research supported by CRY published in such a prestigious medical journal. Our research programme led by Professor Sanjay Sharma has once again reached new heights, bringing young sudden cardiac death to the attention of the medical world and the sporting community. At CRY we will continue to lead the way in the prevention of young sudden cardiac death by investing in research which will help to identify those at greatest risk.
Dr Steven Cox
CRY Chief Executive