Q. My son's high school coach sent home a questionnaire regarding any heart issues that could lead to sudden cardiac arrest on the playing field. He's already had a physical; why does the school want this?
A. Many schools send athletes home with such a screening questionnaire for parents to fill out regarding the athlete and his family members' history of fainting, heart murmur and other issues that could be indicators of potential silent cardiac disorders. "The purpose of the questionnaire is not to restrict anybody from playing sports," says Dr. Kent Stephenson, associate director of cardiac electrophysiology at Huntington Hospital. "It's a screening tool to determine if the individual could benefit from further testing."
The Half Hollow Hills school district, for instance, began sending such questionnaires home this fall. "In the last year or so, there's been a lot of publicity about kids who have had cardiac arrest," says Joseph Pennacchio, district athletic director. "Maybe we can catch something that could have fallen through the cracks and save a kid's life."
If a questionnaire raises issues, the student will see a physician to discuss whether noninvasive testing such as an EKG or an echocardiogram would be recommended, Stephenson says. He doesn't advise parents to request such testing routinely because of potential false positives.
Stephenson also recommends that male and female athletes playing sports in which there is a chance of blunt trauma to the chest, such as baseball, hockey or lacrosse, wear chest protectors during games.