Doctor: No Sports Physical Can Detect Everything, Emergency Response Is Crucial

8:44 PM, Feb 20, 2013   |    comments
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Winston-Salem, NC - A sports medicine doctor told News 2 that the state's physical guidelines are thorough, but emergency response needs improvement.

After the sudden death of 17-year-old Josh Level, on the basketball court Tuesday night, News 2 investigated if preparticipation physicals are enough.

Read here: Josh Level, Basketball Player At New Garden Friends High School, Dies After Collapsing During Game

The North Carolina High School Athletic Association provided News 2 with their sport preparticipation examination form. The first page is a screening form for athletes to provide their medical history and any abnormal symptoms. The second sheet is the physical examination to be filled out by a doctor.

Level attended New Garden Friends School in Greensboro. The school requires an annual physical and Level's was current and on file.

Dr. Karl Fields is the Director of Sports Medicine Center at Moses Cone. He told us he was on the committee that developed the state preparticipation guidelines.

Fields thinks it's a good and thorough physical form. He wouldn't change anything.

"I don't think you would add much to this. I'll be honest, I don't think the weakness here is that the form is inadequate or that the physical examination that the doctor does is inadequate. The real weakness is that we know that sudden cardiac death in young people is extremely rare."

Fields explained that typically if a young athlete dies suddenly while exercising, the cause is linked to a cardiac problem.

However, most of the time, it's impossible to detect any abnormalities prior to the collapse. Even tests like an EKG or echocardiogram are imperfect. In addition, the odds of this happening are 1 in 100,000 young athletes.

"We don't have a single test in medicine that is that accurate. How do you pick up 1 in 100,000 chance of having something?" added Fields.

Instead of excessive screenings and tests, Fields thinks that emergency response plays the bigger role in saving lives. In the past several years, over half of the kids who collapsed with sudden cardiac death were successfully resuscitated if AED's(automatic external defibrillators) were on site.

Fields told News 2's Liz Crawford, "I can't see any evidence that we've really saved lives by doing preparticipation physicals. We've prevented more injuries, we've treated more asthma but I'm not sure we've detected the sudden cardiac deaths."

Fields would like to see AED's in every high, middle, and elementary school in the state. Currently, they are not mandatory in schools.

WFMY News 2

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