Carolina Richardson just started as a dancer at Florida International University, and she was at Miami Children’s Hospital on Friday getting an EKG as part of her physical for college athletics.
Richardson had a disease in early childhood that can affect the heart, but says she never underwent this testing as a dancer for her high school. “I had a physical done but not an EKG. Yeah, they never asked me for it. It wasn’t required,” she said. Last year, 110 high school athletes across the country died of sudden cardiac arrest, that’s about one every three days. Miami Children’s Hospital believes all high school athletes should have EKG screenings at no cost to the students or their families. And so, it will soon launch a brand new program to make that possible. One of the hospital’s Health on Wheels trucks will be making the rounds at area high schools. Also, student athletes who want free EKGs can go to the hospital’s five outpatient centers in Miami-Dade and Broward. Dr. Anthony Rossi is the medical director for the Cardiac Intensive Care Program at Miami Children’s Hospital. “The science of trying to figure out who’s at greatest risk hasn’t been perfected yet. But we do believe athletics triggers some of the fatal problems,” he said. The American Heart Association does not recommend routine EKGs for all high school athletes. Long Q T Syndrome, a problem with the electrical conduction of the heart, can be detected with this kind of screening. The syndrome affects about 1 in 5000 children, boys more often than girls. It’s more common among African Americans and it is treatable. “You could have someone for 15 years be completely asymptomatic but have a Long QT, and it’s like a time bomb. The first time you have an episode can be associated with sudden death,” he said. While the volunteer cardiologists are targeting athletes, free EKGs will also be available to students who don’t play sports. “The problem is you’ll screen a lot of patients and you probably won’t find a lot of people who are at risk, but preventing one death in a child who then has the opportunity to live a completely normal life, we think is worth it” Rossi said.