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An EKG, coupled with a physical exam and medical history, is the best way to detect conditions that lead to sudden cardiac arrest. In fact, a recent study showed that the physical exam and medical history alone missed 82% of the heart conditions detected during a comprehensive pre-participation sports physical for NCAA athletes.

In 2012, international experts in sports medicine and cardiology met in Seattle to establish EKG interpretation standards (The Seattle Criteria) to be used for student athletes. Proceedings from the meeting were published in the February 2013 issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine. These articles distinguish normal physiologic EKG changes in athletes from pathologic abnormalities suggestive of cardiomyopathy, channelopathy, or electrical disorders.

In addition to these published guidelines, the authors created an online training module for physicians to learn the Seattle Criteria, as well as, secondary investigations for athletes with abnormal EKG findings. This free module can be accessed here.

Finally, the Seattle Criteria has been shown to reduce the false positive rate among student athletes from 17% to 4%.

If you are still curious, you can browse the following research:

Screening Athletes to Prevent Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Sudden Cardiac Arrest Risk in Young Athletes

Is There Evidence for Recommending EKG for PPE?

Standardized Criteria for ECG Interpretation in Athletes

Recommendations for Interpretation of 12-lead ECG in the Athlete

Screening for Sudden Cardiac Death in the Young

Psychological Impact of Cardiac Examination on Students