Why we perform screening SPORTS PHYSICALS

Parents and student athletes often wonder why sports physicals are necessary when the athlete is young, healthy and feels generally fine. The answer is that in a very small — tiny, actually — subset of all young athletes, there are those with potentially fatal heart conditions.

These can be “structural,” such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy or “electrical” such as the Prolonged QT Syndrome. There are others. The former is usually a congenital defect, specific to that one child, whereas the latter can run in the family, such as one parent having the gene(s) with one or more children inheriting the condition. Sadly, both can be fatal if intense exercise induces sudden cardiac arrest. That’s why the screening PE is required prior to the start of the season.

The screening is comprised of both a careful history, which involves a series of screening questions (eg. “have you ever felt dizzy or passed out while running?”) and a basic physical exam, focusing on the doctor listening to the patient’s heart, typically while he or she is standing. If either the history or physical reveals abnormalities, the doctor will elect to obtain an Electrocardiogram (EKG) right there in the office and will likely schedule a special ultrasound test called an echocardiogram, as an outpatient. If warranted, a visit to the cardiologist will be arranged as well. If one of these conditions is diagnosed, sport avoidance can be lifesaving, since all of these conditions are treatable.

Fortunately, the need for tests or a specialist referral is relatively rare. However, with potentially fatal heart conditions and the availability of easy screening to rule them out, it’s worth the inconvenience! At Village Health, our experienced doctors and midlevel providers also screen for concussions and other problems, but the heart is the most important part of the exam. No appointment is necessary for a sports or work physical. Please check this website for our extended hours!

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