Why Athletes Should Get Their Hearts Checked – Maidstone United FC Case Study

Blog Health News 13th March 2024 Enquiries & appointments

In this video, Consultant Cardiologist Dr Winston Martin, and Maidstone United Club former Captain and now manager,George Elokobi, explain the benefits of athletes having their hearts checked.

The aim of cardiac screening is to identify heart abnormalities which may risk sudden death. We know that athletes are undertaking high levels of endurance and exercise and exertion, which puts their body and their heart under high levels of stress and strain.

We also have seen very sad situations, such as Fabrice Muamba, who collapsed on the playing field playing football several years ago and also more recently in the euros with Christian Eriksen.

George Elokobi: “Getting our hearts checked is so vital for us to know that our hearts are functioning smoothly, and whilst we train and whilst we go through the vigorous exercises we do on a daily basis. Being very competitive on the football pitch is quite demanding for the heart.”

The ECG is a relatively simple test, it involves putting on leads around the chest and on the arms and legs and that gives us an electrical signal which we can record from the heart and identifies how the electrical signal travels through the heart muscle.

The ECG can be undertaken here at KIMS Hospital. The important thing is that the ECG is read by somebody who’s an expert in knowledge of ECGs, who also understands the changes that could be linked with somebody of young age and also people who are undertaking these sorts of endurance sports and exercising at high levels.

George Elokobi: “Getting a regular heart check is so so important for us as elite sports people and this is just one of the routines that I think and I believe should be put across at every football club and thankfully our club, Maidstone United, has come through and made sure all the players are getting their hearts checked and gives us a peace of mind as a football club but also as individuals gives us the peace of mind to go out there and push our bodies to to the limit.”

So despite all the cardiac screening, what is also important is that clubs and sports facilities have people who are trained in cardiorespiratory resuscitation or CPR. This has been shown to actually save lives – immediate action with resuscitation, including defibrillation can improve survival as we’ve seen with Fabrice Muamba and Christian Eriksen. If it’s delivered early then the chances of survival are much improved.

So it’s important to understand that the initial assessment including the ECG is a screening assessment so that any abnormalities that are identified may require further follow-up tests, such as an echocardiogram, which is a heart ultrasound which can look at things like the heart muscle. It can measure the heart wall thickness, can look at that overall heart pump function, exclude any holes in the heart, septal defects and also look at the valves to make sure there are no abnormalities either excessive narrowings or leakage of the valves themselves.

George Elokobi: “It was really important that the club partnered with KIMS Hospital and they’ve made it really easy for us as players. It’s a fantastic partnership from Maidstone United Football Club with KIMS hospital so long may that partnership continue, so thank you very much.”

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