Objectives: To screen all players registered for the 8th CAF African Under-17 Championship for risk factors of sudden cardiac death.
Design: Standardised cardiac evaluation prior to the start of the competition.
Study population: 155 male football players from all eight qualified teams; mean age 16.4 (SD 0.68) years (range 14 to 17).
Methods: The cardiac evaluation consisted of a medical history, clinical examination, 12-lead resting electrocardiogram (ECG) and echocardiography, and was performed by three experienced cardiologists using established guidelines.
Results: Nine (5.8%) players reported cardiac symptoms, and the clinical examination was abnormal in only two players with elevated blood pressure. A total of 40 players (25.8%) showed abnormal ECG patterns. None of the players with a positive ECG showed correlating echocardiographic findings. The echocardiogram of one player appeared highly suspicious for early-stage hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, and in another player the myocardium was suspicious for non-compaction cardiomyopathy, but both had normal ECGs. Thirteen (8.4%) players showed echocardiographic findings that needed further follow-up. The percentage of players with pathological ECG patterns and some abnormal echocardiographic measurements varied substantially between different ethnic groups.
Conclusion: Cardiological screening for risk factors of sudden cardiac death of football players prior to an international competition proved feasible, and conduction by independent experts allowed high-quality standards and a consistent protocol for the examinations. Differences observed between ethnic groups indicate that guidelines for the analysis of ECGs and echocardiography might be adjusted to the target population.
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Funding The authors gratefully acknowledge Fédération Internationale de Football Association for the funding of the study.
Competing interests None.
Ethics approval Ethics approval was provided by the Conseil National de L’Ordre des Medecins, Algiers, Algeria.
Provenance and peer review Commissioned; not externally peer reviewed.