New Test Targets Athletes At Risk for Sudden Death Syndrome

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In the past few months, Sudden Death Syndrome [SDS] has dominated the headlines, particularly after the death of Fennville High School [Mich.] athlete Wes Leonard, a 16-year-old basketball player who died while celebrating on the court with teammates after scoring the game-winning shot to cap a perfect season. The tragic incident highlights the need to examine why this rare, but fatal, syndrome happens and what can be done to detect it.

SDS is unusual heart arrhythmia caused by overexertion in young athletes. Until now, screening for the hard-to-detect syndrome has been prohibitively expensive. But cardiologist Dr. Sami Viskin of Tel Aviv University's Sackler Faculty of Medicine has developed a new test that's already being used by doctors in America—and may have already saved lives.

The "Viskin Test" is based on the discovery that almost imperceptible abnormalities between normal and at-risk patients can be perceived after a simple test that requires a subject who was lying down to suddenly stand up. When standing, at-risk patients will exhibit a measurable difference in a portion of their heart rate called the QT interval. The difference can be detected by an electrocardiogram [ECG].

Dr. Viskin's research, published in a recent issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, states that young people who suddenly faint for no apparent reason, have dizzy spells or a family history of long QT syndrome are good candidates for this new test.

As more information is released on SDS and the Viskin Test, expect to see updates here on STACK Blog.


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