CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Most schools require a pre-participation physical for students to participate in sports.
But in the United States, heart tests are not required for clearance. So, just because your child gets the green light to play sports, doesn’t necessarily mean they’re safe.
“Unfortunately, some athletes will have no symptoms at all,” explained Dr. Smitha Ballyamanda. “So they can go through the pre-participation physical and have nothing that indicates this is what’s going on.”
Dr. Ballyamanda says potentially deadly heart problems often go undetected during sports physicals.
"You can have a completely normal pre-participation physical and have this condition,” she said.
As was the case with 14-year-old Lewis Simpkins, who collapsed and died during football practice in South Carolina last month.
His physical showed he was completely healthy, it didn’t detect his enlarged heart, the reason he collapsed and died on the field.
“The most common cause of cardiac-related death in athletes is called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which is what this child had,” Dr. Ballyamanda said.
CMS has a program called “Heart of a Champion” that offers free sports screenings that do check for heart conditions that could cause sudden death.
And even though heart tests and EKGs are not required, Dr. Ballyamanda says all you have to do is ask.
“That’s something parents can request, you can also get a full cardiac evaluation,” she explained, admitting that often, parents and physicians choose not to.
“A lot of times parents really just want to get their athletes cleared and on the field,” she said.
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