Physicals May Catch Heart Conditions in Athletes

A sports physical may seem routine, but it’s an important opportunity for providers to screen individuals for health conditions that could impact them on or off the field. Signs of cardiac diseases, for instance, should be carefully considered.

Most heart diseases have tell-tale signs, but not all. It takes a properly trained sports medicine physician to diagnose and screen correct patients. The most common diseases are sudden cardiac death (usually from an irregular heartbeat) and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (enlarged, thick heart).

Athletes that are high risk should be screened. These include individuals with a family history of any of the following: Early cardiac disease or unexpected death (under 35-40), hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, life threatening arrhythmia (irregular heart beat). There are several tests and methods to screen, including EKG and echocardiogram.

There are also red flag symptoms that may occur during exercise that should not be ignored. These include:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Palpitations (skipped beats)
  • Leg swelling
  • Passing out or extreme fatigue

Discussing the activity or sport the athlete participates in can help providers make recommendations regarding restrictions. This especially needs to happen if a diagnosis is confirmed to ensure a patient’s safety.

If you want to learn more about sports physicals, read 5 Things To Know About Your Child’s Sports Physical or talk to your doctor.