a his & hers weblog of worlds apart
On October 13, 2008 New York Rangers draft pick, Alexei Cherepanov, suffered a fatal heart attack and died during a hockey game. Only 19 years old, Cherepanov is the latest in a long line of young elite athletes who have lost their lives to Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM), a genetic heart condition.
HCM basics (more detailed info here)
Strenuous physical activity is dangerous for someone with HCM, especially because sudden death can be the first symptom. This has prompted some to suggest that all young adults should be screened for HCM (using echocardiogram and/or ECG) prior to being enrolled in competitive sports. An Italian study found that screening teens for HCM, and disqualifying those affected from participating, eliminated the risk for sudden death from HCM in young athletes.
Is screening teens for HCM something we should be doing in North America? Certainly within the context of the Canadian public health care system, it could be feasible. Sports have been a big part of my life, and I can’t imagine being told as a teen that I was “disqualified” from participating. However, being left out certainly pales in comparison to suffering a heart attack and possibly sudden death. Eighteen year old David Carle of Denver University knows this all too well.
In the current climate of preventative medicine, it seems to me that screening for HCM should be high on the public health priority list. The questions then become a) at what age should this screening occur b) how would this be implemented and enforced and c) when does prevention go too far? Anyone care to weigh in?
Photo Credit 2: http://www.flickr.com/photos/extrasupercutie/689313791/