Sudden Athletic Death…

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

By: Francis G. Wolf, MD

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The collapse and death of a young athlete in their teens or early twenties is a tragic event. The major causes are heart muscle abnormalities, unusual origins of the coronary arteries of the heart and congenital electrical activation issues.


In an effort to prevent this type of event, we have initiated a screening program performed when the young teen athletes in our area gather for their WIAA yearly examinations. About four years ago we began with a limited echocardiogram on each student looking for any muscle findings. This year, for the first time, we have also included a full electrocardiogram. Any suspected abnormalities are followed up with more thorough examinations.



We do occasionally uncover an unusual finding and further evaluation is undertaken. All the parents, I am sure, enter into this with the feeling that it is a great idea. Unfortunately, when we do find a possible anomaly, there is the stress for them of the further workup and the potential for restrictions and treatment. Invariably however, there is a sense of relief over the potential prevention of "what could have been".


Most commonly, we find other more minor abnormalities which require only periodic follow-up and do not change the exercise pattern or life style of the individual.


These screening programs have thus far been very rewarding for all and we hope to continue.

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BayCare Clinic,, is the largest physician-owned specialty-care clinic in northeastern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It is based in Green Bay, Wisconsin. BayCare Clinic offers expertise in more than 20 specialties, with more than 100 physicians serving in 16 area communities. BayCare Clinic is a joint partner in Aurora BayCare Medical Center, a 167-bed, full-service hospital. Follow BayCare Clinic on Facebook and Twitter.