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Public health implications of establishing a national programme to screen young athletes in the UK
  1. Julian Elston (julian.elston{at}pms.ac.uk)
  1. Peninsula Medical School, United Kingdom
    1. Ken Stein (ken.stein{at}pms.ac.uk)
    1. Peninsula Medical School, United Kingdom

      Abstract

      Objectives: To assess how much competitive sport contributes to sudden cardiac death (SCD) in young athletes and the impact on population health if this group were to be screened in the UK.

      Methods: Using reported and imputed incidence rates of SCD in athletes and non-athletes and false negative and false positive test rates reported in three key Italian screening studies, we calculate: the population and attributable risk fractions of SCD in young athletes and the total population (athletes and non-athletes) aged 12-35 before and after screening; the number of athletes needed to screen to prevent one SCD (NNS); and the sensitivity and specificity of screening with ECG. Using these parameters we developed a decision-tree model based on the UK population age 12-35 to estimate the annual number of SCDs, the expected number of screening and diagnostic tests, the number of athletes disqualified from competitive sport per SCD prevented.

      Results: Participation in competitive athletics contributes to 81.9% (62.4–91.6%) of SCD in athletes, but only 26.6% (-20.3–55.8%) in the total population. After screening, the contribution in the total population falls to 7.2% (-10.7–22.4%). The NNS is 38,151 (20,534–267,380). A UK screening programme would result in 1,520,021 young athletes being screened, with 140,361 referred for diagnosis. Of an expected 196 SCDs per year, 40 (6–74) would be prevented. For every life saved, 791 athletes would be disqualified.

      Conclusions: The impact of screening on reducing SCD in young athletes is only modest, and would be achieved with significant harms to population health.

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