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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Evaluation of a Standardized Cardiac Athletic Screening for National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Athletes


Introduction: Sudden cardiac death is a rare cause of death in young athletes. Current screening techniques include history and physical exam (H and P), with or without an electrocardiogram (ECG). Adding point of care cardiac ultrasound has demonstrated benefits, but there is limited data about implementing this technology. We evaluated the feasibility of adding ultrasound to preparticipation screening for collegiate athletes.

Methods: We prospectively enrolled 42 collegiate athletes randomly selected from several sports. All athletes were screened using a 14-point H and P based on 2014 American College of Cardiology (ACC) and American Heart Association (AHA) guidelines, ECG, and cardiac ultrasound.

Results: We screened 11 female and 31 male athletes. On ultrasound, male athletes demonstrated significantly larger interventricular septal wall thickness (p = 0.002), posterior wall thickness (p <0.001) and aortic root breadth (p = 0.002) compared to females. Based on H and P and ECGs alone and a combination of H and P with ECG, no athletes demonstrated a positive screening for cardiac abnormalities. However, with combined H and P, ECG, and cardiac ultrasound, one athlete demonstrated positive findings.

Conclusions: We believe that adding point of care ultrasound to the preparticipation exam of college athletes is feasible. This workflow may provide a model for athletic departments’ screening.

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