SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Over the past few years, heart health in athletics has gained a lot of attention. Athletes like Damar Hamlin and more recently Bronny James Jr. both suffered cardiac arrest. A doctor with Mercy One sat down with KCAU to address what can be done to help prevent heart problems.
“You know, exercise is very important for our health but it’s a double edged sword in some situations,” Dr. Kuldeep Shah with Mercy One said.
Dr. Kuldeep Shah is a Cardiac Electrophysiologist at Mercy One. He says student athletes who get routine physicals are taking proactive steps to ensure their heart is in top shape.
“Screening athletes when they are in high school or in middle school with a physical exam and a detailed history can sometimes help identify these episodes of cardiac arrest,” Dr. Shah said.
Shah also said that doing a physical exam might not be enough if you have a family history of heart related conditions.
“Data has suggested that, you know, history and physicals only catch about 5 to 20 percent of patients that are of high risk, and it’s actually, the students that are a little bit higher risk, getting a simple non-invasive test like an ECG helps improve that sensitivity significantly,” Dr. Shah said.
And if you are unsure about getting your heart health checked, athletes should pay attention to warning signs.
“Any symptoms that are concerning for the heart like chest pain, especially when they exercise, or shortness of breath. Getting tired easy or having episodes of passing out or feeling like passing out when they exercise,” Dr. Shah explains.
Shah says it also takes a village to make sure athletes have access to medical aid in the event of a cardiac arrest.
“So making sure that everybody around in the training area, especially the coaches, parents and even students are trained in CPR, that they have AED available, they know how to use it and that really helps improve the outcomes of these patients,” Dr. Shah said.
However, cardiac arrest among student athletes is still rare.
“What is most important to understand is that most of cardiac arrests that occur in younger athletes is genetic and its something that is hereditary, something that they are born with,” Dr. Shah said.
According to a study by the Cleveland Clinic, one in 200,000 student athletes may suffer sudden cardiac arrest. Dr. Shah reiterates that most cases are a result of genetics.