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Entries in Athletes (22)

Thursday
Feb282013

Heart Troubles Rare but Deadly in Young Athletes

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Though relatively rare, a cardiac event that strikes a young person at practice or play is often deadly.  About 100 young people die every year playing organized sports, and cardiac arrest is the cause in half the cases, according to the National Athletic Trainers' Association (NATA).

Dr. Dominique Abrams, a cardiologist at Boston Children's Hospital, said cardiac conditions in young people typically fall into one of two categories.

The first, cardiomyopathies, involve some abnormality of the heart such as enlargement, thinning walls or scaring.  The second type is caused by rhythm disturbances.  Nothing appears wrong with the heart but it has a tendency to beat irregularly in some way.

Abrams said that at-risk children and young adults can experience a heart event any time but that exercise certainly increases the chances.

"Patients can be at home watching TV when it happens," he said.  "But we know that symptoms might be exacerbated during sports because their adrenaline is pumping, causing the heart to beat faster."

High school players of hard driving sports like basketball, football and hockey are not the only ones at risk either -- though their stories are the ones that usually make the news.  Abrams referenced a subtype of Long Q-T syndrome that's associated with swimming deaths.

"It's thought to be brought on by the 'diving reflex,' which triggers sudden changes of heart rate and may cause loss of consciousness -- an inherently dangerous occurrence in a pool," he said.

American Heart Association studies show that young black athletes have a greater incidence of cardiovascular death than whites.  And a Dutch study in the Journal of American Cardiology found that 68 percent of cardiac arrest cases during sports play were boys.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Dec042012

Degenerative Brain Disease Found in 34 Pro Football Players

Stan Grossfeld/The Boston Globe via Getty Images(BOSTON) -- On the heels of the latest NFL suicide, researchers announced Monday that 34 NFL players whose brain were studied suffered from CTE, a degenerative brain disease brought on by repeated hits to the head that results in confusion, depression and, eventually, dementia.

The study was released just days after the murder-suicide of Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher. It's not yet known what triggered Belcher's action, but they mirror other NFL players who have committed suicide.

Researchers at Boston University's Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy published the largest case series study of CTE to date, according to Boston Medical Center. Of the 85 brains donated by the families of deceased veterans and athletes with histories of repeated head trauma, they found CTE in 68 of them. Of those, 34 were professional football players, nine others played college football and six played only high school football.

Of the 35 professional football players' brains donated, only one had no evidence of the disease, according to the study.

According to the new study, Boston University researchers divided CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, into four stages, the first of which involves headaches and the last of which involves "full-blown dementia." The disease involves brain tissue degeneration and a buildup of an abnormal protein called tao, which is also found in patients with Alzheimer's disease.

Kansas City police say Belcher, 25, shot and killed his girlfriend Saturday morning before going to the team stadium and committing suicide by shooting himself in the head as he was talking to coaches.

Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt said Sunday that Belcher was, "a player who had not had a long concussion history," even though he was a three-time all-America wrestler and a star on the football team at his West Babylon, N.Y., high school. It is not yet clear whether his brain will be donated to the study.

However, the Boston University researchers have not yet determined how much brain trauma results in CTE.

"While it remains unknown what level of exposure to brain trauma is required to trigger CTE, there is no available evidence that occasional, isolated or well-managed concussions give rise to CTE," one of the study's co-authors, Dr. Robert Cantu, said in a press release.

It's not yet clear what prompted Belcher's actions, but his suicide closely follows those of former NFL players Junior Seau, 43, and Dave Duerson, 50, both of whom died of self-inflicted gunshot wounds to the chest in the last two years. Duerson's brain is being studied at the Boston University research center, where researchers have already learned that he had CTE.

Seau's brain was donated to a different facility and the results have not been released.

In 2006, former Pittsburgh Steelers player Terry Long killed himself by drinking antifreeze, and former Philadelphia Eagles player Andre Waters shot himself in the head. Both of them suffered from CTE.

CTE has also been found in hockey players, wrestlers and boxers. It's still not possible to diagnose while a person is alive.

Seau's death in May prompted NFL player Jacob Bell to quit the sport altogether, leaving behind his contract with the Cincinnati Bengals.

"We're getting so much money, so much glory, so much fame; we're boosting our egos so much by playing a sport that's violent and could later on risk our lives," Bell said in May.

CTE researchers from Boston University were unavailable, and do not comment on players' deaths until more research is obtainable.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jul312012

Five-Ring Fever: When Olympic Parents Push Their Kids Too Hard

Polka Dot Images/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Judi Brown Clarke, a silver medalist in the 400-meter hurdles at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics who went on to coach at Michigan State University, witnessed young athletes who fell apart as their controlling parents pushed them to the limit.

"I have seen athletes who wanted to please their parents so much -- this extra pressure to perform made them anorexic or bulimic," said Clarke, now 51.

Behind many Olympic athletes is a parent (or two) who have encouraged and pushed their child through tens of thousands of hours of grueling training to keep them on track.

Jim and Cecille Adrian watched their 23-year-old son Nathan qualify for the 100 meters freestyle with the fastest time in the preliminary rounds.

"Driving about 100,000 miles in four years, taking vacations in about 15 different cities in the US, probably 100,000 air miles -- and that's just the start," Jim Adrian told ABC News. "It wasn't cheap, but it was worth it. It's a good investment. You always invest in your kids."

For Les and Cathy Volmer, parents to 100 meter butterfly gold medalist Dana, their daughter's success as a junior swimmer convinced them to keep supporting her -- despite the missed vacations and long hours.

"The cost of it all -- you had to look ahead and say, I don't want to say is she worth spending the money on -- [but] are we pointing in the right direction, are we putting our money in the right direction?" Les Volmer told ABC News. "As long as she kept giving us information with her smiles, her talent, her coaches talking to us about yeah, she can make the next level -- then it was always worth it. And it got expensive but there was always a success in sight. So we kept going on."

Sports psychologists and even the athletes themselves recognize that parents need to balance their control so their children can be winners, but not losers in life.

Clarke feels so strongly about the issue that she contacted Rita Wieber to guide her before 17-year-old Jordyn Wieber's disappointing gymnastic performance in London.

"I wanted to give her insight into what it looks like from the athlete's perspective to be a parent -- where is the line of control," said Clarke, who is now director of diversity at the National Science Foundation Center for Science and Technology at Michigan State University.

"I sometimes find that it's not the parents who have had success, but the parent who had a frustrating career and vicariously see their child as their second chance," said Clarke. "They see it as a personal accomplishment instead of the child's accomplishment."

Most athletes' parents never step over healthy boundaries, according to Dan Gould, director of the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports at Michigan State University.

But according to a study on coach perceptions, three out of 10 parents may cross that fine line "unknowingly," and one in 10 will actually be "high maintenance."

"They are critical with the child or lose emotional control," said Gould. "Sometimes they try to coach when they are not trained as a coach or walk off the court with a lot of drama."

He and his colleagues studied the long-term outcomes of Olympic champions in a paper published by the Association of Applied Sports Psychology.

"We know parents in general influence kids in a lot of ways," he said. "If the parent places more importance on winning that tends to create more stress."

Their research has shown that parental pressure can also backfire, hurting an athlete's development. Some "burn out" or leave the sport altogether.

The average athlete gives 10,000 hours of "deliberate practice" to develop the expertise to go all the way to the Olympics, according to Gould. "They do it with some yelling and pushing, but in the end, you push yourself."

"Even well-meaning parents can get really caught up in five-ring fever," he said. "You can't use guilt to motivate a kid or love withdrawal."

Gould says it's a "delicate balance." The best parent will ask their children to, "follow through on your commitments and the responsibility of good practice."

No parent-child relationship is ever going to be completely "normal" at this level of competition, according to Gould.

Larry Lauer, who is director of coaching education and development at the institute, did a study on the influence of parents on nine professional tennis players.

Athletes with controlling parents thought about quitting at some point in their junior careers. "Those who carried forward decided to play tennis for themselves and not for their parents," he said.

One top-ranked female player told researchers, "My mom would rather have me win a tournament than come home to see her."

When he looked at athletes and their parents over time, the most demanding parents had, "strained relationships" with their children.

Both pro football player Todd Marinovich and tennis grand slam star Andre Agassi wrote about the impact of obsessive parent coaches, suffering depression and drug addiction.

"When people are constantly under stress it causes them to make other choices to relieve that stress, like drinking and taking drugs or even promiscuity," said Lauer.

As for former Olympic medalist Clarke, she tries to strike a balance with her three children, including 15-year-old Antonio, who is a rising high school basketball and track star.

"I try not to get over-involved," she said. "I used to coach professionally and that kicks in -- and it's a fine line between being a coach and a parent. Intrinsically, they have to see the sport as their core value in their life, otherwise there is resistance when a parent is always pushing them."

"I had to not use my personal drive and how I see sports and impose that on my kids," said Clarke. "They had to figure it out for themselves."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jul302012

They Eat What? Food Secrets of Olympic Athletes

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It takes more than just practice to become an Olympian; gold medal performances require some serious nutrition.  So what do these elite athletes eat to stay in peak shape?

Keri Glassman, a registered dietitian and founder of Nutritious Life Meals, appeared on ABC's Good Morning America Monday to give you a glimpse into the diets of some top athletes.  Some of their meals could surprise you.

Crazy Calorie Count

Glassman said Olympians eat a lot of food -- quantities that for ordinary people would constitute pigging out.  One secret of swimmer Michael Phelps’ astonishing performance in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing was consuming as many as 12,000 calories in one day.

Other athletes fuel up on some of the following foods: A pound of pasta drizzled with olive oil (about 800 calories), a dozen eggs (about 840 calories), a pint of Ben & Jerry’s cheesecake brownie ice cream (about 1,000 calories) and pizza (about 2,000 calories).

Athletes can eat like this and not gain any weight because their workouts are intense.  According to Glassman, Phelps’ workouts can burn 4,000 to 6,000 calories in a day, and those calories must be replenished in order to train the following day.

The body needs carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals and fluid in order to be properly fueled for exercise.  Eating right allows athletes to delay fatigue, work harder -- possibly giving them the edge they need to set a personal record -- and recover faster, Glassman said.

Snacking Secrets

Some athletes eat wacky foods that they swear improve their performance.

Yohan Blake, the Jamaica sprinter and 100-meter world champion, has been making waves for stealing champion sprinter Usain Bolt’s thunder on the track during the Olympic trials.  When asked how he gets his stamina, Blake answered that he eats 16 bananas per day, Glassman said.

Jonathan Horton, the lead gymnast on the U.S. team, has a blood sugar problem.  His solution is honey.  When he starts to feel shaky at the gym, he takes swigs of honey to boost his energy, Glassman said.  According to Horton, the sugar rushes to his blood right away and he feels amazing for the next hour or so, she added.

Kerry Walsh, the two-time American Olympic medalist and beach volleyball player, eats lots of almond butter and honey sandwiches throughout the day, especially before she competes, Glassman said.

Almond butter is packed with endurance-boosting nutrients including protein, plus healthy fats.  Protein helps prevent muscle wasting during exercise and prevents you from feeling hungry during exercise.  The healthy fats in almond butter are rich in calories and provide energy for hours.

Foods for Recovery

What are the best foods to help the body recover after rigorous competition?

U.S. gymnast Aly Raisman swears by chocolate milk because of its high carbohydrate and protein content, Glassman said.

For Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte, the recovery meal is grilled chicken breasts with Alfredo sauce, whole-grain spaghetti and a salad with lemon juice and olive oil.  Lochte, who recently cut out junk food, candy and soda, has undertaken a rigorous strength-training regimen that involves flipping tractor tires, dragging shipyard chains and tossing beer kegs, Glassman said.

Lochte’s recovery meal has all the important macronutrients necessary for recovery.

Other recovery foods Glassman mentioned:

  • Pickle juice.  The salty-yet-savory juice has high doses of all-important sodium, potassium and magnesium.  Sodium prevents muscle cramps.
  • Sweet tart cherries.  Pack these in your gym back.  The antioxidants in cherry juice may suppress the enzymes that cause inflammation of the body from the stress of exercise.
  • Beet juice.  The blood-red elixir of the beet is apparently the hottest thing for Olympic athletes looking for a legal performance boost, Glassman said.  Beet juice is rich in nitrates, which help muscles use oxygen more efficiently.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jan262012

High School Wrestler Does Not Let Cerebral Palsy Get in the Way of His Dreams

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(KEARNEY, Neb.) -- Andrew Dubowsky may be still looking for his first high school wrestling match victory, but that’s not to say the freshman hasn’t had success. Andrew was born with cerebral palsy, severely limiting the use of his legs. Despite suffering from a debilitating disease, Andrew’s strong desire to compete on an athletic team enabled him to overcome the odds and participate on the wrestling team at Kearney High School in Kearney, Nebraska.

“He’s an avid sports person. He always wanted to play football. Of course, that wasn’t possible. This sport [wrestling] offers a lot of things and I think that Andrew was just trying to do something with himself,” Andrew’s mother Melissa Dubowsky explains to ABC Kearney affiliate KHGI.

Andrew’s determination and strength has gained many admirers, and he has earned high praise from teammates, competitors, and opposing coaches alike.

"The Seward coach came up to me after my first competition and told me that I inspire his kids because of the way I wrestle,” Andrew told KHGI. He also explained his bigger dreams: “I want to try to be a state champion.”

Andrew has shown that with dedication, drive and willpower, anything is possible.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jan182012

Tebow's Playoff Blows Highlight Need for Sports Injury Care 

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow suffered numerous injuries during Saturday night’s playoff game against the New England Patriots, including torn cartilage, a bruised lung and fluid in the cavity surrounding one of his lungs, reports ESPN.

The damage was done, an NFL source told the sports network, during a hit Tebow took after throwing a pass.

The Broncos’ spokesman didn’t reveal the exact nature of Tebow’s injuries, citing team policy, but did say the quarterback was in a lot of pain at the end of the game.  Because of the pain, he had trouble sleeping and had an MRI earlier this week.

The source said Tebow’s injuries will not affect his offseason training regimen, and Tebow said in an interview he “can’t wait to get to work and get better.”

Without knowing precisely what happened to Tebow, it’s difficult to say what consequences staying in the game after being hit could have had.

But in general, doctors say a blow to the chest or abdomen can sometimes worsen over time, even if the damage seems minimal at first.

“These kind of injuries can evolve over time, and it may not cause trouble until later.  There may be pain that gets worse or other symptoms,” said Dr. John DiFiori, chief of the division of sports medicine in the department of family medicine at UCLA.  DiFiori was not referring to Tebow’s injuries and spoke of athletic injuries in general.

Athletes at all levels often play through injuries, either because they don’t seem that bad or because it’s in their nature.

“They will push through and feel that as long as they can make a difference to their team, they’ll be out there.  In the heat of competition, they may not perceive their injuries as being significant,” said DiFiori.

Concussions are among the most commonly underreported sports-related injuries.

“People may not even know they have a concussion. They can happen after a blow to the body that causes a rotational force to the head,” he said.

But awareness of the dangers of concussions and other sports injuries is on the rise, he added.  More and more athletes recognize the symptoms, such as headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and slurred speech, and are seeking medical attention.

Despite broader knowledge of the consequences of sports injuries, athletes still need to be reminded about not pushing their bodies beyond their physical capabilities after getting hurt.

“Our job as sports medicine specialists is to communicate when it’s safe to return to playing.  Athletes are often so committed to getting back that they take shortcuts, and they need to be carefully counseled,” DiFiori said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Nov302011

Sports Concussions Lessen Blood Reaching Kids' Brains

Comstock/Thinkstock(CINCINNATI) -- Concussions can reduce blood flow to young athletes' brains for a month or more, although their brains also appear more resilient in many ways than those of similarly injured adults, researchers report.

A single sports-related concussion in a young person generally produces minor trauma, which the researchers described as more of a disruption to brain function than the structural and metabolic damage similar concussions inflict on adult brains.

The findings come from a study assessing the effects of concussions on nine boys and three girls, ages 11 to 15, who'd been injured during football, soccer or wrestling.  The study group comprised three girls injured while playing soccer, one boy injured while wrestling and seven boys injured on the football field.  Two football players were knocked unconscious during the incidents; three of the football players had suffered previous concussions more than a year earlier.

When the researchers, led by Dr. Todd Maugans, a pediatric neurosurgeon at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, compared injured athletes' brains to brains of healthy youngsters of the same age and sex, MRIs found less blood flowing through the injured athletes' brains in the immediate aftermath of their head injuries.  The brain-injured athletes also had slower reaction times.

However, by the two-week mark, blood flow for 27 percent of the injured athletes returned nearly to the levels of healthy subjects and most of their symptoms had resolved.  Follow-up at a month or more found 64 percent of the injured athletes had normal blood flow again, and everyone's reaction times were normal, according to results published online Wednesday in the journal Pediatrics.

With 36 percent of the group experiencing persistent blood flow reductions a month or more after their injuries, "our results reinforce the concept that a protracted state of physiologic abnormality exists for some young athletes," the researchers wrote.

The authors theorized that diminished blood flow produces some of the symptoms associated with concussions, most of which resolve with time.  They were unable to say what long-term effects might result from lessened blood flow.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Oct192011

Better Equipment Won’t Prevent Sports Concussions, Experts and Athletes Say

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Sports are an important part of youth culture, but the risks of concussions need to be addressed, former athletes, neurologists and a representative from the Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment (NOCSAE) told members of the Senate Commerce Committee on Capitol Hill Wednesday.

“I don’t see this problem going away with equipment,” said Dr. Ann McKee, a professor of neurology and pathology at Boston University. “I think equipment is going to improve this issue, but it’s not going to solve this issue. We really have to address the way sports are played.”

Both former college quarterback Steven Threet and Alexis Ball, a former soccer star, testified that they felt pressured to return to games after sustaining concussions more quickly than they should have.

“I don’t think brain injury is viewed as a serious issue throughout athletics,” Threet told the panel. “It wasn’t, for me, until I had a concussion that changed what I was able to do in school and on a daily basis.”

Ball, who suffered 10 concussions in eight years, said she knew the answers to test questions doctors asked and lied in order to play.  

“People have only one brain for life,” she said. “I will never regain the visual memory I once had....Concussions and brain injuries are not minor injuries. In order to prevent more stories like mine, concussion awareness needs to be more prevalent among coaches and athletes in our society.”

Recent cases of athletes developing chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), leading, in some cases, to suicide, brought the dangers of concussions to the national spotlight.

McKee highlighted the suicides of Dave Duerson, a former defensive end for football’s Chicago Bears, and Owen Thomas, a University of Pennsylvania defensive end. Both experienced repeated concussions during their careers and, when compared, their brains showed similar pathologies.

An understanding of equipment and its purpose is vital to preventing concussions, said Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher of the University of Michigan’s department of neurology.  

“Helmets are extremely effective pieces of equipment,” Kutcher told the committee. “What helmets do not do well is significantly slow down the contents of the skull when the head is struck and moved suddenly. Since concussions occur not as the result of the forces experienced by the skull, but experienced by the brain, it is extremely unlikely that a helmet can be designed that will prevent concussions to the same significant degree that they have been shown to prevent skull fractures.”

The hearing was intended to focus on improper marketing of sports equipment, which Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., highlighted repeatedly. His examples included a mouth guard, a headband and a supplement whose makers all claimed would help prevent concussions.

Kutcher said anything that says it prevents concussions does not “understand the complexity of the issue.”

The claims can be dangerous because of the confidence that develops when wearing gear that is marketed as “protective.”

“A player who has sustained a concussion now sees this, or the parent sees this, as the answer,” said Mike Oliver, executive director of NOCSAE. “If I put this on, everything’s fine. It’s not only a false sense of security from being protected from the first concussion, but being protected because I just had one and this will give me an extra layer.”

Educating athletes, coaches and parents is the most immediate way to prevent the harm concussions cause, the panel said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Oct042011

Study Says Foot 'Bawlers' Are Happier, Have Higher Self-Esteem

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(BLOOMINGTON, Ind.) -- There might not be crying in baseball but there is in college football and psychologists say that's a good thing.

According to a new study released Monday, researchers found that players who tear up after losing a game tend to have higher self-esteem than those who "man-up" and don't show their true emotions.

Researchers at Indiana University-Bloomington also say that college athletes who display physical affection toward other players seem to be happier in whatever they do.

Study researcher Jesse Steinfeldt remarked that players who "are emotionally expressive are more likely to have a mental edge on and off the field."

They mentioned how the media was wrong to have singled out former University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow for crying after his team lost a big game in 2009, even labeling him Tim "Tearbow."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Oct032011

Hearts of Cheerleaders and Ballplayers Can Suddenly Stop, Say Experts

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- An apparently healthy high school cheerleader who died after collapsing during a football game this past weekend likely experienced sudden cardiac arrest, a rare occurrence that has again raised questions about the value of widespread screening.

Bystanders at Friday night's game briefly revived Angela Gettis, 16, of George Washington Preparatory High School in Los Angeles, using CPR, but she was pronounced dead at a local hospital after her heart stopped.

Gettis had no known health problems; her family is awaiting results of an autopsy to learn how her life ended so unexpectedly. A member of the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps, Gettis had planned to major in forensic science in college.

Her death comes on the heels of sudden cardiac deaths among a half-dozen brawny high school football players in Texas, Arkansas, Georgia, South Carolina and Florida as they trained in the suffocating summer heat. The boys had several things in common, including having heavy-set physiques and collapsing early in the practice season, a likely result of pushing themselves when they weren't accustomed to the exertion.

Cheerleaders can be similarly stricken. On April 5, a 16-year-old girl collapsed from sudden cardiac arrest during cheerleading tryouts at North Hunterdon High School in New Jersey. Quick-thinking coaches and parents, who had been trained in CPR and use of automatic external defibrillators, sprang to action and saved her life.

However, in many cases, youngsters don't survive these episodes. Janet Zilinski, an 11-year-old New Jersey girl, died from sudden cardiac arrest after cheerleading practice on Aug. 10, 2006. Her parents, Jim and Karen Zilinski, created the Janet Zilinski Memorial Fund, which is pressing for a New Jersey law requiring AEDs at all public and private schools and sports fields and mandating that schools and sports camps have trained responders as well as emergency action plans.

Sudden cardiac deaths remain relatively rare, with an estimated one in 100,000 to three in 100,000 young U.S. athletes succumbing annually, said Dr. Kathleen Maginot, a pediatric cardiologist at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. The incidence could be as rare as 1 in 1 million among children from ages 1 to 18, said Dr. Ian Law, a specialist in inherited heart rhythm disorders at the University of Iowa in Iowa City.

Maginot and Law said the No. 1 condition leading to the youngsters' deaths is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a congenital problem in which the heart becomes abnormally thickened. Second are abnormalities that impede blood flow through the arteries (not to be confused with artery-clogging accumulations of plaque), Law said.

Other conditions that can set the stage for sudden cardiac death include inherited arrhythmias, in which the heart beats erratically; infection of the heart muscle called viral myocarditis; other heart enlargements that weaken the heart; and inherited heart defects, including those that have been surgically repaired, Maginot said.

Before youngsters engage in vigorous sports, their parents and coaches should be aware of cardiac risks such as a family history of sudden death before the age of 50, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), or a history of fainting during exertion. The warning signs include passing out during exercise (which some athletes may try to hide out of fear they'll be told to stop playing), as well as palpitations and chest pain. Maginot also cautioned that episodes that look like seizures may not be epilepsy, but might result from irregular heart rhythms that interfere with blood flow to the brain.

Although an increasing number of schools now monitor athletes' heart rates, which should revert to normal after increasing during exertion, widespread cardiac screening of young athletes has not been adopted by either the American Heart Association or the American College of Cardiologists.

Maginot said cardiac screening "would definitely pick up" abnormalities among some young athletes who died earlier this year, such as those whose inherited cardiac abnormalities put them "at increased risk of arrhythmias after their life-saving surgical repairs." However, she said, had athletes who developed viral infections before their deaths been given typical screening tests last fall, the tests "would likely have been normal since they did not develop their illness until later."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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