he Football Association has led the field amongst sporting bodies when it comes to heart screening. First introduced for young footballers by the FA in 1996, I was pleased to be asked from the outset to help deliver the screening programme. Having been involved since the get go it is wonderful to see how far the screening programme has evolved over the last 20 years. The FA with the help of heart screening specialists including HeartScan now deliver screening to over 1000 young footballers every year. There are 13 cardiologists, including myself, who form the expert FA Cardiology Consensus Panel which advises the FA on results of screening especially in cases where the results are not normal.
There is now widespread interest in heart screening in all sports, sadly fueled by the ongoing devastating reports of sudden cardiac death and cardiac arrest in young footballers and athletes who appeared to be at the pinnacle of health and fitness. In the past weeks, two more report have gained prominence.
The FA and their panel of sports cardiology experts recently hosted the Cardiology in British Sport symposium on 23rd March 2018 at Wembley Stadium. This was a resounding success and highlighted key issues with the athlete’s heart that are currently being faced by medical practitioners involved in screening. You can view the programme by following the link below.
We learnt about the new international recommendations published in 2017 which aim to improve the interpretation ECG and echo findings in athletes and sporty individuals. Knowledge of the changes that occur in the heart due to regular training is crucial so that these changes which can show up on the ECG and echo are not misinterpreted as being due to a heart abnormality. This is why if you have a heart screening test you should only have it reported by a cardiologist with sports cardiology expertise.
What was most pleasing to learn was that other sporting organisations are now becoming more structured in their approach to heart screening with presentations from the England and Wales Cricket Board and Rugby Football Union. Certainly in the cricketing world the news that international cricketer James Taylor was forced to retire from sport at the age of 26 due to being diagnosed with a life threatening heart condition has increased the focus on screening.
As part of the new approach to screening in cricket HeartScan are pleased to report that they have been appointed by Durham County Cricket Club to screen the entire squad in Spring 2018.
Finally Fabrice Muamba, a survivor of sudden cardiac arrest, was a guest speaker and it was heart-warming to hear how he has rebuilt his life following football and his ongoing commitment to heart screening and player welfare in sport.