Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a cardiac defect that makes extensive exercise dangerous. It is, however, treatable if screened early.

The U. S. Olympic Committee doesn't require a physical for athletes, but more the less is conducting voluntary cardiac screening at its training center. A statistic often cited is that there are 10 to 13 cases of sudden cardiac death among young athletes reported yearly. There are some physicians who state that the count could be much higher.

Many physicians agree that scans should be performed on athletes with a family history of sudden cardiac death and/or with symptoms such as heart murmurs, shortness of breath or a history of fainting. The more common scanning techniques used today are EKG's and echo cardiograms. But neither may find every defect. However the scans can pick up problems that a physician -- even with a stethoscope -- could miss.

This awareness had been vital; parents have organized clinics that offer free or low-cost scans. The clinic utilizes EKG's, but also the new, inexpensive variety of echo cardiogram that is a hand-held device. The results are favorable in that they can detect a possible abnormality that can be further worked-up using a comprehensive echo cardiogram in an office or hospital setting.

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Italy administers EKG scanning on all competitive athletes; findings have gone a long way in convincing the IOC and cardiologists in other European countries that this type of screening may save the lives of athletes. Japan administers EKG on all first graders and seventh graders as they believe it makes life-saving findings.

In today's competitive sports environment, it is important for schools, as well as athletic teams, to question its athletes as to any medical problems that should be known, especially those families with a history of heart murmurs, shortness of breath, dizziness or fainting.

Dr. Robert F. Weiss, a Sport Podiatrist, was a member of the Medical Advisory Committee of the 1984 & 1988 Olympic Marathon Trials.