Cardiologists leading study on student athletes

January 19, 2010

Every year in the United States approximately 8 million student athletes participate in sports at school. Before children are allowed on the field, a family history and a physical exam is required. But experts believe that a more in-depth screening program is needed.

Sudden death episodes primarily occur in apparently healthy children during a time of strenuous physical exertion, and are most often attributed to previously undiagnosed cardiac diseases.

Children’s is one of three institutions leading a state-wide cardiac research study to address the need for a pre-sports screening program in Texas.

Drs. William Scott and Ilana Zeltser, pediatric cardiologists in The Heart Center at Children’s, are participating in the research study to identify children who may be at-risk for sudden death episodes. Over the course of a year, 15,000 student athletes received an electrocardiogram — a test measuring the electrical activity of the heart. Dr. Scott, professor of Pediatrics at UT Southwestern, and Dr. Zeltser, assistant professor of Pediatrics at UT Southwestern, are examining the electrocardiograms.

“Our goal is to establish new standards for normal electrocardiogram values in the adolescent athlete,” Dr. Zeltser said. “We are focusing on the degree to which gender, race and body mass index affect the interpretations. We hope to increase the sensitivity and specificity of the electrocardiogram as a screening tool for sudden death in young athletes.”

Read more on the Children’s blog - From the Red Balloon.