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Cardiac Screening for All Young Athletes Carries Big Price Tag: Study
Date:11/27/2012

By Randy Dotinga
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Nov. 26 (HealthDay News) -- A new study suggests it would be wildly expensive -- more than $10 million per life saved -- to require American high school and college athletes to undergo heart testing to weed out those at risk for fatal cardiac complications from playing sports.

The mandatory screening of the athletes "is incredibly expensive in terms of cost per life saved," said study co-author Dr. Sami Viskin, director of Cardiac Hospitalization at Tel Aviv Medical Center, in Israel. "Considering that the evidence suggesting that [cardiac] screening actually saves lives is problematic, we should definitively collect more evidence before we make this test mandatory."

However, a commentary accompanying the study argues that the screening can be accomplished at a much lower cost, and that school and sports officials bear an ethical responsibility to protect these young athletes.

At issue are the sudden deaths of athletes due to undetected heart disease. "Investigators argue about how common this phenomenon is, with numbers ranging from one in 200,000 to one in 25,000," Viskin said.

"We do know, however, that the risk is significantly higher for males than for females," he added. "We also know that the vast majority of athletes who die suddenly do have an underlying heart disease that has remained undetected, either because it caused no symptoms or because the symptoms were ignored."

An electrocardiogram can detect some of the heart problems, potentially saving lives by preventing those young people from becoming athletes.

But it's a complicated situation because some athletes with the heart conditions would be fine regardless of whether they were removed from competition, probably the vast majority of them, Viskin said. Also, many of the disqualified athletes may decide to keep exercising and putting themselves at risk, he added.

In the new study
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