The doctors who participated in the new study did support use of a standardized statewide form based on the AHA guidelines, Madsen said.
The study also found that many doctors are skipping some of the questions outlined in the AHA guidelines. For example, 28 percent failed to ask young athletes about whether or not they ever experienced chest pain during exercise, 22 percent didn't always ask about unexplained fainting, and 67 percent didn't ask about family history of heart disease. The physical exam also includes listening to the heart and measuring blood pressure levels.
One expert was disappointed by the study findings.
"Doctors are not asking the right questions or doing the proper physical exams," said American Heart Association President Dr. Gordon F. Tomaselli.
In other countries, such as Italy, doctors routinely use electrocardiograms (ECG or EKG) to measure the electrical activity in young athletes' hearts and weed out those who may be at risk for sudden death. These tests often yield false-positive results, but they may be important if an athlete has risks based on the AHA screening criteria, said Tomaselli, who is also chief of cardiology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. "Doctors need to ask the right questions to determine who needs follow-up tests," he said.
Parents, too, can do their part to protect young athletes, he said. "Parents can and should be engaged with the doctors and coaches -- particularly if there is a concerning [medical] history," he said.
Still, these are very difficult conversations to have, noted Dr. Clyde W. Yancy, chief of cardiology at Northwestern University's
All rights reserved