(02/10/14) - Concussions are taking center stage lately when it comes to sport injuries, but there is a far greater risk to young athletes, one that puts them in danger on and off the field. In fact, thousands of kids are walking around with ticking time bombs- that could be diffused long before they become deadly.
Seventeen-year-old Carley St. George has played sports for most of her life, "I play soccer, but I played gymnastics two years ago, I play basketball, pretty much done it all."
So when Carley took a sports participation screening-she was shocked at the results, "it's a hole in my heart between my right and left atrium."
Carley had surgery to fix her heart defect, but the problem could have been deadly. A young athlete dies from a cardiac incident once every three days in the United States. In contrast, concussions cause 1.5 deaths per year.
Dr. Hank Pelto says the heart events are usually brought on by a pre-existing, detectable condition, "in young folks, these tend to be congenital heart problems either of the plumbing of the heart, or the walls of the heart, or the electrical signals of the heart."
Most schools require a standard sports exam that includes listening to the heart, checking blood pressure, and reviewing family history. But many doctors believe adding an EKG could detect about two-thirds of the deadly heart problems that are aggravated by exercise.
"A heart screening is a critical part of any pre-participation exam," says Dr. Pelto.
Tori Sorensen had an undetected heart defect. She went into cardiac arrest while playing college intramural basketball.
"They had to shock me four times before they could get my heart going again," Tori says.
Today she works with a non-profit group that offers free heart screenings at high schools, "we find somebody at each screening who has a cardiac problem."
She wants every athlete to be screened so hearts and lives can be saved.
Several hospitals in Mid-Michigan offer free athlete heart screenings throughout the year. Check hospital web sites and with your child's school for times and locations. You can also request a screening though your child's pediatrician.
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