Heart screening for athletes scheduled

Medical professionals will carry out heart health checks on some of the Cayman Islands’ top teen athletes this weekend.

The clinic, which will be held Saturday, 23 February, was prompted by and is being held in memory of Gerome “Bird” Graham, who died suddenly of cardiac failure while playing football last June.

This initial athletic heart screening will focus on athletes between the ages of 15 and 19 who are considered high performance or national level athletes. The Cayman Islands Ministry of Health sent letters to athletes and their families inviting them to take part in Saturday’s clinic. The offering at the Heart Health Centre on West Bay Road is not open to the public.

“Most people are at least vaguely familiar with sudden cardiac arrest due to news reports after the deaths of professional athletes like basketball player Reggie Lewis and Italian football player Piermario Morosini,” said Mark Scotland, the minister responsible for sports and health. “It is important to know that sudden cardiac arrest can happen time, any place, to anyone and without warning.”

In the United States, it is estimated that up to 300 high school athletes die each year at organised sporting evens, the minister said, adding: “The sudden death of local footballer, Gerome, shows us that our local athletes are not immune.”

Sudden cardiac arrest occurs when the heart’s electrical system malfunctions, resulting in the abrupt loss of normal heartbeat. It can occur without warning.

“While no screening can guarantee 100 per cent safety, athletic heart examinations provide a more complete pre-participation reassurance that the athlete is ’safe to play’,” Mr. Scotland wrote in his letter to parents.

The clinic will be staffed by a qualified healthcare team led by a board-certified cardiologist with expertise in evaluating athletes’ hearts.

The exam will include a comprehensive cardiovascular history and physical examination, blood pressure, electrocardiogram and a limited echocardiogram or sonogram.

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