Youth Sports Exams: Why Prevention Matters

Don't Skip Your Youth's PPE

As student-athletes take the field, either through their school or community sports program, Parent Heart Watch firmly recommends that parents ensure their student athletes get a current physical that includes a comprehensive cardiac risk assessment to make sure, in addition to other health conditions, their heart is safe to play.

Sports physicals are a long-established standard of care recommended by medical, education and sports communities, including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM).

The AAP encourages athletes and their families to fill out a medical history form before the PPE that includes standard elements important to consider in evaluating the athlete's eligibility to participate in sports. The forms are available as downloadable forms in English and Spanish. Your primary care provider should review the medical history in private with you and add the forms to the athlete’s medical record (vs. the school record).

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Cardiac Risk Assessment Resources

Sudden Cardiac Arrest is the #1 killer of student-athletes and the leading cause of death on school campuses. Given studies show one in 300 youth has an undetected heart condition that puts that at risk, best practice is to review family risk factors and warning signs at home and review them with your doctor annually, or when changes occur.

While sporting events, practices and conditioning sessions will likely be limited, the AAP recommends that preparticipation physical evaluations be conducted in alignment with the PPE Monograph 5th Edition.

Know an athlete with a cardiac condition? Learn more about the ORCCA Study.

Families can get a more comprehensive evaluation of their child’s heart health by also completing this cardiac risk assessment form (English version or Spanish version) and sharing it with their medical practitioner for discussion.

Recommendations for Youth Exposed to COVID-19

The American Medical Society of Sports Medicine (AMSSM) and the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) published Cardiopulmonary Considerations for High School Student-Athletes During the COVID-19 Pandemic: NFHS-AMSSM Guidance Statement. This guidance statement addresses the recommended evaluation of high school student-athletes who have had COVID-19.

Recommendations range from taking a comprehensive cardiac risk assessment, which can include an electrocardiogram, to consulting with a cardiology specialist to evaluate potential heart disorders that can lead to sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). The statement also reaffirmed that every organization should have a well-rehearsed cardiac emergency action plan for every sport, at every venue, to facilitate a coordinated and efficient response to SCA.

There is also a study with NCAA athletes that concluded SARS-CoV-2 infection among young competitive athletes is associated with a low prevalence of cardiac involvement.

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Return to Sports During COVID

The American Academy of Pediatrics has published a Safety Checklist for youth participating in sports during COVID and Understanding the Risks of youth participation in various sports environments. Find more interim guidance during COVID-19 here.