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Sudden cardiac deaths: one-off screening misses cardiomyopathies in young footballers

BMJ 2018; 362 doi: (Published 09 August 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;362:k3474
  1. Susan Mayor
  1. London

One-off cardiac screening at age 16 failed to detect most cardiomyopathies associated with sudden cardiac deaths in adolescent footballers, a large UK cohort study has found.1 But results from the 20 year study also showed that the rate of sudden cardiac deaths was much higher than expected, prompting the English Football Association (FA) to recommend more frequent cardiac assessments for young footballers.

Sanjay Sharma, study coauthor, said, “The death of a young athlete is highly tragic when one considers that most deaths are due to congenital/inherited diseases of the heart that are detectable during life. Such deaths raise questions about possible preventative strategies.” Sharma is professor of inherited diseases and sports cardiology at St George’s, University of London and chairs the FA’s expert cardiac committee.

The study, funded by the English FA and research charities, screened 11 168 teenage footballers recruited to youth academies at clubs affiliated with the association from 1 January 1996 to 31 December 2016. The mean age of the players at cardiac screening was 16.4 years.

The screening—mandatory for all teenagers joining youth academies who have the potential to become professional footballers—included a health …

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