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Is it Safe to Participate in Sports? Cardiovascular Screenings for Athletes

Written by Bryan Heart Cardiologist, John Steuter, MD

Cardiovascular screening in athletes is universally supported, but the best model for accurate detection of athletes and children with potentially lethal heart disorders remains challenging and often controversial.

Most athletes who suffer sudden cardiac arrest do not have warning signs or symptoms before their cardiac arrest.  Some symptoms can be under-reported by athletes or go unrecognized by medical providers.

Important symptoms to be evaluated if present include:

  • Passing out during exercise
  • Chest pain with exercise
  • New onset fatigue or excessive shortness of breath with exercise
  • Palpitations (heart racing for no reason)
  • A family member with early onset heart disease or sudden death from a heart condition before the age of 40

Remember to keep in mind that the age of the athlete makes a difference on the most likely etiology as reviewed in the figure below.

causes of sudden cardiac death in young competitive athletes

Maron,BJ et al. Circulation 2007.

If you have a patient with any positive family history, any of the above symptoms, or physical exam findings of heart disorders are found, it’s recommended by the American Heart Association (AHA) to refer the athlete to a cardiologist. 

To refer a patient to Bryan Heart, call 402-483-3333.

steuter john

About John Steuter, MD

John Steuter, MD, is a cardiologist at Bryan Heart. Steuter is a graduate of The University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Medicine and joined Bryan Heart in 2015 after completing his residency and fellowship at The University of Nebraska Medical Center. He is certified with the American Board of Internal Medicine.

View Dr. Steuter’s physician profile

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