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Toshiba, Hospitals, USRowing to Study Athlete Heart Deaths

Pairs rowers

(USRowing/Flickr)

Toshiba America Medical Systems in California is partnering with USRowing, the governing body for competitive rowing in the U.S., and medical centers in Ohio and Mississippi to help determine if sudden cardiac death can be prevented with a heart screening. The Athlete Heart Research Study will initially screen high-school age rowers taking part in USRowing’s national youth championships, 7-9 June in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

Sudden cardiac death is a condition where the heart ceases to function, usually due to a failure in the heart’s electrical system, resulting in death within minutes. While considered a rare disorder overall, high school athletes are believed to be 2 to 3 times at greater risk than the population as a whole. Santosh Menon, a cardiologist with The Christ Hospital Health Network in Cincinnati, one of the health care providers taking part in the study, says current recommendations call for a physical exam by a physician, which may miss a majority of the underlying and undetected heart conditions.

The study is focusing first on scholastic rowers since these athletes typically participate in only one sport per year, and are about the same size and fitness level. Rowing also involves a high degree of aerobic and resistance training.

Toshiba America Medical Systems is providing its Aplio 500 ultrasound systems for the study to provide echocardiogram screenings. The system says Toshiba, offers highly detailed visualization and quantitative measurements of the functioning of the heart wall.

The study will first screen volunteer participants in USRowing’s Youth Nationals Race. Participants in the study will receive electrocardiogram (EKG) and echocardiogram screenings. All screenings will be registered for follow-up comparisons of athletic versus pathological hearts, for up to three years. The study is expected to be the largest registry of high school rowers in the country and will help indicate changes considered normal for athletic hearts, compared to real heart problems, which may be the cause of sudden cardiac death.

The other medical centers taking part in the study are the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

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