March 1 (Bloomberg) — Heart defects that can cause otherwise healthy athletes to die while playing in basketball and football games were detected in Harvard University athletes using a common $88 test.
The tests, known as electrocardiography or ECG, were given to 510 Harvard athletes in addition to their standard physicals, according to a study published today by the Annals of Internal Medicine. The added tests identified two players who were deemed healthy in typical examinations despite having dangerous defects that should bar them from competition. Scientists in three articles debated the merits of routine ECG tests for athletes.
Genetic heart defects caused the courtside deaths of Hank Gathers, an All-America 23-year-old basketball forward at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, and Reggie Lewis, a 27- year-old All Star guard for the Boston Celtics of the National Basketball Association. Such defects are the top cause of sudden death in sports, killing 1 of every 220,000 young athletes each year, according to previous studies.