Medical Screening: A high priority for all

Less than 100 days remain until the opening of the Olympic and Paralympic games in London and sporting teams and athletes worldwide are gearing up in preparation.  As athletes complete their final training for the games it is worth reflecting on the role of medical screening in the preparation of an athlete for sport.  We were reminded recently of the importance of medical screening by the sad news of the death of 26 year-old Norwegian world champion swimmer Alexander Dale Oen, who was found by his teammates after suffering a heart attack during a high-altitude training camp in Arizona.

Screening athletes can uncover ‘silent’ cardiovascular abnormalities that can lead to sudden cardiac death. Chapter 48 is dedicated to sudden cardiac death in sport and includes specific information on screening for cardiac conditions, primary and secondary prevention of cardiac conditions and management issues. Incidence rates and etiology are discussed and common cardiomyopathies are listed. It is a must read for clinicians working with athletes at any level.

Chapter 62 is titled ‘screening the elite sportsperson’ and is co-authored by Liverpool Football Club’s team doctor and sports physician Zafar Iqbal and sports physiotherapist Phil Coles, both of whom have vast experience working with elite sporting teams. Initial athlete screenings involve taking a comprehensive medical history, a thorough objective examination and following up the results of any investigations required. Modified follow-up screenings allow athletes, coaches and clinicians to monitor medical and musculoskeletal health as well as performance based issues such as over-training.

Resources for Chapter 62 include:

  • Athlete Medical Information form
  • General Medical Examination Protocol
  • Lower limb musculoskeletal protocol
  • Football pre-season screening form
  • A list of questions addressing cardiovascular problems recommended by the American Heart Association

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