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Heart to Heart: ECGs at Pediatric Sports Physicals

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Keeping our children safe is our top priority as parents. When they’re little, we bandage up their scraped knees and nurse them back to health when they get sick. As they get older, we worry about sprains, strains and broken bones when they take to the field or court as aspiring athletes. What often doesn’t come to mind is the possibility of an undetected heart condition that can be dangerous if it continues to go undiagnosed.

We’re here to answer some frequently asked questions and explain the importance of ECG heart screenings during routine sports physicals, which AdventHealth can provide to your children.

What is an ECG?

An ECG is an electrocardiogram. They monitor the electrical signals that control how the heart beats and pumps blood. They are non-invasive and useful for detecting heart conditions and rhythm abnormalities. They can be done in a doctor’s office, clinic or hospital.

ECGs for Child Athletes

It’s common to assume that children and young adults have healthy hearts because they are young. Add to that the factor that a young person is an athlete, and you think of them as the picture of health. It’s 2.5 times more likely for sudden cardiac arrest to occur in young athletes than non-athletes. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, the most common cause of sudden cardiac death in young athletes, occurs in one in every 500 people.

It’s wise for young athletes to not only have a physical with a general exam and thorough health and family history, but an ECG as well to identify at-risk athletes. Being active and playing sports is encouraged, especially when it comes to preventing heart disease and childhood obesity. At the same time, making sure kids are playing safely is important — especially those involved in more intense high school sports.

Health and Family History

Consider the following questions about your family’s health history and share the answers at your child’s physical. If any are a “yes,” they’ll need further evaluation:

  • Has your child ever fainted during exertion?
  • Has your child ever experienced chest pain during exertion?
  • Has anyone in your family ever died of sudden cardiac failure?

Know the Warning Signs

While sudden cardiac arrest in athletes is rare, it’s always best to be on the safe side. Along with having your child get a sports physical including an ECG, be aware of the following warning signs before they heavily exert themselves:

  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Heart palpitations
  • Unusual shortness of breath
  • Unusual fatigue
  • Weakness

Time for a Heart to Heart

We’re here for all your children’s health care needs. If you notice any of the signs above or have something in your family history that needs to be discussed, schedule an appointment with your child’s primary care doctor as soon as possible. If they are otherwise healthy, talk to your pediatrician about scheduling an ECG at your aspiring athlete’s next physical. Their safety is our top priority.

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