David E. Price, MD
Nearly 2,500 local high school student-athletes received free comprehensive athletic screenings at four separate locations this summer at Heart of a Champion Day, a Carolinas HealthCare System program that is thought to be the largest screening of its kind nationwide. Hosted in June, more than 650 providers at four locations posted record numbers of students who participated.
Heart of a Champion Day is part of the comprehensive orthopedics program at Carolinas HealthCare System, which continues to be nationally recognized by healthcare agencies and organizations. A head-to-toe musculoskeletal exam is performed on all student-athletes to ensure that both strength and flexibility levels are sufficient for physical activity. Participants are also put through a series of joint and range of motion tests to identify any potential areas of weakness. This year, there were 48 orthopedic red flags found at all four screening sites.
Additionally, unique to Heart of a Champion Day is the administration of electrocardiograms and, if needed, echocardiograms that check for heart conditions that could lead to sudden cardiac death. Neither heart test is offered during a routine athletic screening.
"Catching orthopedic and general medical conditions early provides adequate time to effectively evaluate and treat them before the next athletic season," said David E. Price, MD, medical director of Heart of a Champion Day and sports medicine specialist at Carolinas Back and Sports Specialists. "We alert parents to schedule an appointment with their child's regular physician or other appropriate physician for follow-up care. In cases where the child does not have a primary care physician, we work with the family to find their child a regular doctor to assume their care."
Through the volunteer efforts of more than 650 healthcare professionals, the screenings -- valued at more than $1,500 per student-athlete -- are provided to community student-athletes at no cost. Volunteers included administrative assistants who checked in students, pediatric cardiologists who read the electrocardiograms and echocardiograms, primary care providers who performed general medical exams, registered nurses who took blood pressures and administered eye tests and certified athletic trainers who, in addition to helping at the events, performed pre-event planning and post-event follow-ups. In addition, OrthoCarolina provided physicians and physician assistants who performed orthopedic checks at the Mecklenburg, Union and York screenings. Specifically:
Conditions discovered often, such as lingering concussion issues and orthopedic concerns, require ongoing medical care and may have gone undetected without these free screenings, including muscle and joint problems, heart abnormalities, elevated blood pressure, diabetes and vision problems.
"Public awareness of young athletes who collapse during athletic competition and are found to have had an undetected heart condition has grown tremendously in recent years," said Nicholas Sliz, MD, a pediatric cardiologist at Carolinas HealthCare System's Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute. "While these conditions are rare, I feel the Heart of a Champion Day athletic screen increases the likelihood of detecting important heart conditions that would put an athlete at risk with exercise."