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Clearing Kids for Sports Participation Sparks Conflicts
Date:9/10/2010

By Kathleen Doheny
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Sept. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Most teenagers think they're invincible, and that goes double for talented teenage athletes. They're young, immortal, at the top of their game, the envy of their friends.

So when news hits that an apparently healthy, high school or college athlete has dropped dead in the midst of playing his or her favorite sport, millions of parents get understandably anxious.

The uppermost question becomes: Should my child be screened before participating in sports? What tests are needed? And how can we be sure that he or she is truly healthy enough to compete?

Everyone agrees that a medical checkup before participating in sports is crucial. But the agreement seems to stop there. At the core of the conflict over further testing is how extensively young athletes' hearts should be tested before they're cleared for athletic participation.

"I think everyone should have a doctor who evaluates them, and the doctor should know the child is going to be participating in athletics," said Dr. Paul Thompson, the director of preventive cardiology at Hartford Hospital in Connecticut, who helped write a joint position statement in 2007 from the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association.

That statement recommends cardiovascular screening for high school and college athletes before they start participating in athletics and at two- to four-year intervals. The screening should include a family history, a personal history and an exam "focused on detecting conditions associated with exercise-related events," according to the groups' recommendation.

But, there's more: "The AHA does not recommend routine, additional noninvasive testing such as a routine EKG [electrocardiogram, which assesses the heart's electrical rhythms]."

The American Academy of Pediatrics seems to agree. "Every athlete should have a thorough history [
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