Canada introduces tiered CVD screening for high school athletes

Canadian physicians are calling for nationwide CVD screening for all competitive high school athletes, CTV News reported this week of new guidelines issued at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in Toronto.

The guidelines come half a decade after Jordan Boyd, a 16-year-old hockey player, collapsed and died on the ice due to an undiagnosed heart condition. Co-writer Amer Johri, MD, MSc, said the new recommendations were designed to prevent a repeat incident.

“Practitioners were taking bits and pieces of guidelines from other countries and organizations,” he told CTV. “That was introducing a lot of variability into how they were screening athletes.”

While Europe and the U.S. both have their own sets of guidelines for screening varsity athletes, it’s “a national first” for Canada, CTV reported. But, while the European guidelines recommend electrocardiography (ECG) screening for all young, competitive athletes, Canadian doctors took a more tiered approach to prevention.

Athletes start small, with a medical history questionnaire they’re asked to fill out with the help of a cardiologist, family doctor or team’s medical staff. For most teenagers that will be enough to clear them for competition, but if anything on a patient’s questionnaire causes concern, doctors are encouraged to complete a physical examination ending with a 12-lead ECG.

“When we do find red flags we speak to the athlete and help them come to a decision with us,” Johri said. “We’re not necessarily taking a paternalistic approach into telling them what to do, but we’re giving them the risks with their family and trying to come up with a plan together.”

The new guidelines also recommend all athletic facilities have emergency action plans and on-hand defibrillators, and that all staff are trained in CPR and the use of automated external defibrillators.

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