Experts Disagree on Mandatory Athlete ECG

ROME, Oct. 4 (UPI) — Two sports experts in Italy say athletes should undergo a mandatory test for heart health, but a professor in sports medicine in Oslo, Norway, disagrees.

The debate, presented in the British Medical Journal, looks at the merits of having all athletes submit to an electrocardiographic screening.

The heart trace — also known as an ECG — has been required in Italy, the only country where it is required by law, for 30 years.

Dr. Antonio Pelliccia of the Institute of Sports Medicine and Science in Rome and Dr. Domenico Corrado Antonio Pelliccia of the University of Padua Medical School in Padua, Italy, found the incidence of sudden deaths fell by 89 percent after implementation of the program and no deaths were reported among athletes disqualified from competition because of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

However, Dr. Roald Bahr of the Oslo Sports Trauma Research Center at the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences in Oslo, Norway, says the diagnostic accuracy of ECG screening varies and false positives can be as high as 40 percent. He notes the conditions that cause cardiac death differ substantially between populations.

In other words, a screening program that successfully identified cardiomyopathies in Italy may not be effective in Norway where this seems to be a rare cause of death.

“Screening of hundreds of thousands of athletes to save possibly one life a year, cannot be justified,” Bahr said in a statement.

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