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No system of heart testing can prevent tragedies like the passing of Jordan Boyd

Between the death of Alexei Cherepanov, Jiri Fischer's career-ending incident and the death of Windsor Spitfires forward Mickey Renaud, the NHL and its developmental leagues have worked very, very hard over the past half-decade to improve preventative heart testing, with the NHL, AHL and CHL attemtping to ensure that congential heart defects are discovered before players are subjected to further risks.

But no system of testing can totally prevent the kind of tragedy that occurred on Monday, when Acadie-Bathurst Titan try-out Jordan Boyd collapsed and died at the team's rookie camp. The Globe and Mail's Alan Maki and Sean Gordon note that the science of ECG's and EKG's is not exact:

The Quebec Remparts consulting cardiologist, Paul Poirier, said he’s spent several hours in the past two days reassuring parents of QMJHL players and other athletes (he also works with college and Olympic competitors).

“No system of testing is ever going to be perfect, and I think we have to be careful about escalating the screening regime, because that raises other questions: Who’s going to do the testing? Who’s going to interpret the results?” Poirier said. “It’s tricky. Some athletes might have electrocardiogram results that look like a red flag if the person examining them doesn’t know they’re a high-level athlete. A detailed medical history is sufficient to detect the vast majority of cases, which are rare. In 15 years, I’ve only had to prevent one player from going out on the ice.”



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Primis's avatar

I think the question to ask is: why do we NEED to be testing these guys now when we didn’t need to 10-15 years ago, and is that fixable/preventable?

Something has changed.  Something biologically may be increasing instances of heart problems.  Something with training and diet might be.  They might simply be being pushed too hard.  These guys weren’t dropping years ago though, and they are now.

Screening is fine but, it bothers me that nobody is concerned why these instances are only a fairly recent thing.

Posted by Primis on 08/13/13 at 11:49 PM ET

w2j2's avatar

I disagree with the title.

Most of these cardiac deaths are caused by unusual enlargement of the heart muscle.  Jiri Fischer is a case in point.

This can be detected by an echocardiogram, which is a non-invasive ultrasound of the heart.

The reason it is not being uses in screening athletes is cost.

Posted by w2j2 on 08/14/13 at 11:41 AM ET

shazam88's avatar

To the first poster…sudden death in athletes didn’t happen previously? Do you have some supporting stats to back up that statement? Reggie Lewis and many others beg to differ, particularly the younger, non-professional athletes who past away. People weren’t trolling the internet in quite the same way back then, so smoke signals relaying the death of Canadian bantam players was often lost by the time it made it to the Michigan border.

“hypertrophic cardiomyopathy” - Ooh, that’s a surprise. I called that in the initial post on this poor guy. And it is not a “new” malady.  I mentioned that Echos are required to diagnose these. They are expensive and most of the time physicals rely on ECGs, which will frequently miss physical abnormalities of this nature, even when stress testing is done.

Posted by shazam88 from SoCal on 08/14/13 at 01:01 PM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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