Breaking Down the New NCAA Guidelines on Cardiac Screening for Preparticipation Exams

Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is the leading nontraumatic cause of death among NCAA college athletes, so natch, the NCAA wants to change that. Here's what they're recommending for all schools:

  • All NCAA member schools must have and practice a response plan to aid a victim of cardiac arrest in both competition and practice settings.

  • The team physician should review or conduct the sports physical.

  • Said sports physical should include the AHA's 14-point cardiac health questionnaire and a physical exam.

What does the NCAA recommend about adding ECG/EKG screening to that exam? Seems everyone wants to provide ECG testing, and those who can, do. Those who can't . . .Well, here's where the advice gets a little dicey, but it's a work in progress.

  • Seems many schools (read Division 1) already have the capacity to give and/or require an ECG for their athletes. They should keep doing that, but should make sure the physician interpreting the test has the clinical skills to distinguish between an athletic and an abnormal heart. Cue the super specialists.

  • Those NCAA schools who do not have the capacity to provide ECG interpretation are not required to add the ECG. However, the NCAA will develop a referral network so these schools can access quality services. Cue the Max Schewitz Foundation. We have the aforementioned skills, and we travel!

How's this sitting with the average family practice doc, college athletic trainer, and AED salesman? Stay tuned for the media response.