Purposes: The purposes of this article are to explore the mechanism of sudden cardiac death (SCD) in young athletes and examine how preparticipation screenings help identify precipitating cardiac abnormalities. Electrocardiogram (ECG) testing has been implicated to play an important role in detecting subtle abnormalities that may cause SCD, but the routine implementation of this diagnostic tool remains a debate among experts.
Data sources: This report was compiled by reviewing the scientific literature on SCD in athletes, preparticipation exams, and current screening guidelines using CINAHL, MEDLINE, and PubMed search engines.
Conclusions: Although the American Heart Association guidelines do not include ECG testing for preparticipation screenings, the implementation of routine ECG testing for preparticipation sports physicals is effective in preventing SCD in athletes.
Implications for practice: Primary care providers should be aware of current guidelines for screening patients for heart diseases that predispose them to SCD and their legal obligations to be sure these athletes are safe. The implementation of ECG testing will assist in the decision whether to disqualify an athlete from participation as a result of preexisting cardiac conditions, and ultimately preventing the untimely death of a young athlete.