Doc: Test schoolboys' hearts

2012-03-27 22:12

Durban - A leading Durban heart specialist has urged athletes involved in school sports, and first team rugby players in particular, to be more responsible about including proper medical screening in their conditioning programme ahead of a major sporting season.

Cassim Hansa, a cardiologist at Life Healthcare’s Entabeni hospital in Durban, made the comments in the wake of a spate of high profile incidents of top sports stars collapsing on field due to heart related issues.

Just a day after 23 year old Bolton Wanderers midfielder Fabrice Muamba suffered a cardiac arrest and dropped to the ground during his team’s FA Cup quarter-final clash against Tottenham Hotspurs, Sergio Granero also collapsed during his Spanish third division game after suffering a blow to the head which too sent him into cardiac arrest.

Whilst it appears both footballers should make a full recovery over time, former Irish U19 captain John McCall wasn’t as fortunate when an undetected heart disease lead to the 18-year-old’s death during their World Cup opener against New Zealand in Durban in 2004.

“Whilst being so far away from it all makes it difficult to know exactly what happened in the case of Fabrice Muamba, it certainly is something that our youth should stand up and take note of and make sure they get their own heart checked out before the rugby season begins,” said Sharks medical affiliate Hansa.

“There are certain medical conditions relating to the heart such as hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy, with a prevalence of one in five hundred, or arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy, which is more common in Italy and surrounds however does also exist here in South Africa, that our youth could have inherited and which could cause abnormalities in the coronary arteries.”

“These and other cardiac abnormalities need to be considered very seriously especially if there is a history of sudden cardiac death in the family.”

“These conditions aren’t particularly common and it is generally only when we train very hard and push ourselves, as do many of our first and second team high school rugby players, that these issues come to the fore, however a single incident would be a disaster for the family of the youngster, the community and the school concerned!” he warned.

Whilst something not to be taken lightly and a daunting topic for many, detecting whether or not you or your children have such a condition is something a simple trip to your local sports doctor can determine.

“The investigative process is not a complicated one. A sports doctor, who is probably a general practitioner with further study in sports medicine, could easily conduct a basic examination and a resting ECG which would pick up most of these abnormalities. Then, if there were any areas of concern, they can be referred on for further investigation,” explained Hansa.

“There is good evidence that the screening process not only picks up the cardiac abnormalities but cause a definite reduction in sudden cardiac death in sport,” he added.

Hansa also urged schools to consider taking on a portion of the responsibility by educating their pupils on the possible risks and by developing a system which would enable pupils to be evaluated at school.

“The ideal situation would be if schools were to develop some sort of screening process whereby a sports doctor could come to the school and screen each child before the season.”

“It is something the Italians are mad about and it is something we should look at doing too, especially at the top end, which is where many of our high schools are these days,” he added.

However, until this becomes feasible parents are urged to ensure their children undergo a basic cardiac screening, along with a sound conditioning programme, nutritional plan and concussion assessment, as part of their pre-season medical check list to help minimise the risk of potentially fatal consequences.


  • steynski - 2012-03-28 10:21

    It seems that professional and non-professional athletes suffering from cardiac arrest is not uncommon. A lot of evidence is pointing to athletes sweating excessively which over time depletes vital vitamins and minerals which they are not replacing via supplementation.

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