University City

Group offers heart exams for athletes

Nothing silences roaring fans faster than an athlete suddenly collapsing on the field.

Heart of a Champion Day aims to prevent sudden cardiac death by providing free screenings to local high school student athletes.

Traditional sports physicals do not include the heart screenings offered through Heart of a Champion. Each athlete receives an electrocardiogram, which traces the heart’s electrical activity and an echocardiogram, which is an ultrasound of the heart.

These tests can identify irregularities and high-risk disorders that often go undetected, such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a hidden heart condition that is the leading cause of sudden cardiac death in young athletes. HCM and many other cardiac conditions are treatable if found early.

Surprisingly, young athletes suffer sudden cardiac death at a rate two to three times higher than their less active peers, according to information from Heart of a Champion.

Heart of a Champion Day is a partnership between the local school district, Carolinas Medical Center, Sanger Heart and Vascular Institute and OrthoCarolina. The program provides more than 400 health professional volunteers to administer the exams. Close to 2,000 student athletes participated in the screenings and approximately 200 were found to have medical conditions that required follow-up. This year the screenings will be held Saturdays in Fort Mill, Charlotte, Indian Trail and Lincolnton.

Each registered athlete receives a free medical history review, general sports screening, orthopedic screening and vision exam.

The exam is valued at more than $1,500 and counts as the required sports physical each athlete must receive for school sports participation. All tests are painless and non-invasive.

Exams are only offered to registered student athletes. Registration open through May 7 for York County’s May 12 exam. Registration will begin soon for Mecklenburg County’s June 2 exam, Union County’s June 9 exam and Lincoln County’s July 21 exam. Visit to register.

Bus transportation is provided by individual school districts, except Union County. Students should check with their athletic director regarding bus schedules.