Study encourages more electrocardiogram tests

March 2, 2010 6:57:26 AM PST
A new study out of Stanford makes a forceful argument for a very specific tests that could help prevent student athletes from dying why playing. It comes in the wake of two East Bay high school athletes' sudden collapses.

A team of medical researchers at Stanford has just released a study identifying electrocardiograms as a cost-effective test that could save more athletes' lives who don't know they have a heart condition.

"I think it should be required, not only for athletes, I would like to see all children tested because this is a birth defect and they are not being detected," said Tim Halpin.

Tim Halpin lost his son Mikey in 2008 to sudden cardiac death. The Los Gatos High School football player never knew he had a heart problem, that's why Halpin is now pushing for legislation requiring all young athletes to have electrocardiograms of their hearts.

Just this year, two teen basketball players from West Contra Costa County high schools collapsed during separate games -- their hearts suddenly stopped. One teen died, the other survived. Neither knew they had a heart condition. An electrocardiogram screening could be the way to save lives -- according to a new study by cardiologists at standford university's school of medicine. It calls for routine ECG testing of young athletes hearts to screen for sudden death. While it's cheaper to do only a family history check and physical exam, Dr. Matthew Wheeler says the extra ECG test is not too expensive and makes a difference.

"Because you get so much more efficacy in saving lives and having kids who maybe would have died at the age of 18, now they live to age 65 or 70 if they're appropriately treated," said Dr. Wheeler. The studys said one in 500 people have the genetic heart condition, known as HCM, or hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. The test takes about 10-minutes, and would cost about $88-dollars per athlete, including follow-up tests.

The Standford researchers suggest that local school districts consider requiring ECGs for their student athletes.