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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