Since 2018, the screening of these athletes has been funded by the Aaron Dixon Memorial Fund and delivered in partnership with the English Institute of Sport (EIS). Aaron was just 23 when he tragically died from a previously undiagnosed heart condition, in September 2011.
Chief Executive of CRY, Dr Steven Cox, comments; “This is the third Olympics where CRY has been screening Team GB and Olympic athletes prior to their participation in the Games. I would like to thank Debbie Dixon, her family & friends for the incredible support she given to CRY in memory of her son Aaron, which has provided the funding to test these truly elite athletes prior to the delayed – and much anticipated – Tokyo Olympics.
“We have a great heritage of working with English Institute of Sport and we were delighted when we ‘signed off’ this initial grant back in 2018, confirming CRY’s commitment to funding further 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. Our mission is to maintain 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.”
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. This was further cemented thanks to funding from the JD Foundation (the charitable arm of JD Sports Fashion plc) which donated around £170k to support screening in sports, in memory of Aaron Dixon. The first of these many sessions took place in May 2018 at the EIS’s Performance Centre at the Bisham Abbey National Sports Centre, Buckinghamshire – continuing until very recently to include a number of Olympians and Paralympians selected to represent the UK in Tokyo.
Aaron’s mum, Deborah Dixon, from Tarporley, Cheshire 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, marking the first-time that part of Aaron’s memorial fund was used to specifically to facilitate screening in sports.”
Due to the tireless efforts and campaigning work of Debbie Dixon (supported by friends, family, local businesses and the community) more than £350k has been raised in memory of Aaron and – to date – 4131 young people have been screened through his fund.
The EIS’s Director of Medical Services, Dr Rod Jaques adds: “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 family memorial funds, 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.
Professor Sanjay Sharma (St George’s, University of London) is the charity’s Consultant Cardiologist. He supervises CRY’s screening programme and is the leading Sports Cardiologist in the UK, working closely with Team GB in the run up and during the London 2012 Olympic Games. 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.”