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Pilot heart screening scheme targets young athletes

14 August 2008

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GPs in Scotland are being invited to refer young amateur athletes to be tested for a potentially fatal heart condition under a new screening programme.

The £200,0000 Scottish government-backed programme will make the country only the third in the world, after Italy and the US, to employ such a scheme. It will see up to 4,000 people a year – young amateurs and some professional footballers – undergo cardiovascular screening.

The pilot programme will use a combination of questionnaires and testing to identify those at risk of sudden cardiac death, the condition which claimed the life of Scottish footballer Phil O’Donnell. The Motherwell captain and former Celtic and Scotland midfielder died after collapsing on the pitch last December.

Health secretary Nicola Sturgeon said the condition claimed some 70 lives a year in Scotland. “The loss of each of these lives is a tragedy,” she said.

GPs can refer any youngsters involved in organised amateur sport for testing. They will be asked to fill in a questionnaire detailing any known family heart conditions, before having an ECG test to pick up any abnormality, and an ultrasound procedure to detect any problem with the structure of the heart.

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