Samaritan Health Services
has partnered with Oregon State University to provide electrocardiogram screenings, known as EKGs, to all of the university’s student athletes.
The program began as part of a 2012 NCAA study, which was developed to assess the feasibility of screening every Division I athlete for heart abnormalities that may trigger trauma. The study was led by principal investigator Jonathan Drezner, MD, and included 13 other universities from across the country. The findings are currently being evaluated by the research team and will be published later this year.
“After the study concluded, we felt it was important to continue to evaluate athletes in this manner,” said Douglas Aukerman, MD, senior associate athletic director for sports medicine at Oregon State University. “Current NCAA recommendations for cardiac screening for college athletes include a physical exam, listening to the heart and a blood pressure evaluation. But we want to further examine opportunities to provide EKGs in a cost-effective manner in order to determine if the test is a valuable tool overall in evaluating risk for sudden cardiac death.”
In addition to EKG screenings, Samaritan Health Services is now providing an important diagnostic test — an echocardiogram— for a subset of higher-risk student athletes. An echocardiogram, often referred to simply as an echo, is a type of ultrasound test that is especially useful for detecting problems with the heart valves, evaluating congenital heart disease and can give a general idea of the overall function of the heart muscle.
According to a recent survey, half of all colleges and universities do EKG screenings for athletes, and only half of those are providing echocardiograms, like Oregon State University and Samaritan Health Services are doing.
“This program really puts us on the cutting edge of cardiovascular evaluation of student athletes,” said Cardiologist Tom Marker
, director of cardiac rehab and echocardiography. “Currently, there is a lack of data as to whether or not EKGs and echos are useful in keeping student athletes safe as they perform at such a high level,” said Marker. “Our hope is that through this program we’re able to gather critical data that will allow us to determine whether these tools can help prevent sudden death in student athletes. In addition, it is a privilege to work with OSU, Dr. Aukerman and these student athletes.”