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Preventing Cardiac Sudden Death in Young Athletes

August 08, 2012
Jane Crosson at Heart hype 2012

Pediatric cardiologist Jane Crosson, M.D., left, was among the volunteers at Heart Hype 2012.

Reid Thompson

Reid Thompson, M.D., also was on hand.

Johns Hopkins Children’s Center cardiologists Reid Thompson and Jane Crosson were among the volunteer Johns Hopkins physicians, nurses and staff who took part in the annual Heart Hype Screening, July 28, at the 2012 USATF National Junior Olympic Track & Field Championships in Baltimore.

Led by the director of the Johns Hopkins Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Clinic, Ted Abraham, M.D., the team screened teens specifically for their risk of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a rare but deadly heart condition and the cause for many of the sudden deaths of seeming healthy athletes, such as Reggie Lewis and long-distance runner Ryan Shay. Open to athletes between the ages of 9 and 18, the screenings were free, non-invasive, and included an electrocardiogram and echocardiogram.

VIDEO: Ted Abraham describes the condition and Johns Hopkins services  

An inherited condition, hypyertrophic cardiomyopathy is the leading cause of sudden death in young people under the age of 30. The condition occurs when the heart muscle thickens, restricting blood flow to the rest of the body. In young people it is often undetected until a tragic event occurs. Many of these patients will have a family history of the disease, or of early sudden death, but some will not.

Comprehensive screening approaches like Heart Hype’s, says Abraham, are key to detection and prevention of the heart condition and its consequences.

“Young athletes feel they’re invincible, yet we know heart disease can kill them,” he says. “When I hear this (the sudden deaths of young athletes), my heart breaks because I know these deaths could have been prevented.”

Screenings like Heart Hype also detects and outlines portenders of future heart disease among the young, such as obesity and high blood pressure.

“Events such as Heart Hype are useful not only for finding the rare patient with overt disease, but for reminding families that screening for heart disease should be an integral part of pre-participation screening,” says pediatric cardiologist Crosson.

Pediatric cardiology and related services at Johns Hopkins 

Johns Hopkins Cardiomyopathy and Heart Failure Service: A Center of Excellence


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