BY: CARLY WEEKS
The Globe and Mail
...And many couldn’t help but
wonder if they or their loved ones could also be at risk for sudden cardiac
arrest while on the ice, field or court. Although rare, unsuspected sudden
cardiac events cause about 500 deaths in people under the age of 40 each year
in Canada. The situation involving Peverley, a professional athlete in the
prime of his life, is a stark reminder that potentially deadly heart problems
can strike anyone.
National Hockey League players,
including Peverley, go through a rigorous medical exam on the first day of training
camp each fall that includes advanced screening processes, such as
electrocardiograms, for heart-related issues. But some argue that blanket
screening should also be applied to the wider population, including anyone who
plays organized sports, to mitigate possible risks.
highly charged, emotional issue with few easy answers.
Italy, "pre-participation” screening is a way of life for young athletes who
must submit to electrocardiograms, family history questions and other tests
before they are cleared for play.
The screening is designed to
catch heart abnormalities that could pose a risk for sudden cardiac arrest or
other serious heart problems. Although the costs can add up and screening can
be time-consuming for patients and doctors, the chance to save young lives
justifies it, according to research presented to the 2011 European Society of
along with being costly and cumbersome, testing every young person who wants to
play sports is potentially ineffective or misleading, said Dr. Paul Dorian, a
cardiologist at St. Michael’s Hospital and director of the division of
cardiology at the University of Toronto, who specializes in rhythm disorders of
the heart. For instance, screening could sideline a person from sports for life
even though their risk of having a cardiac event is minute. And screening often
can’t catch problems that may lead to sudden cardiac arrest.
very controversial,” Dorian said.
we are prepared to invest a lot of time in trying to identify individuals who
might be at risk, this is very hard to do and it’s often unsuccessful.”
cardiac events don’t only occur in athletes. But when they do, they are highly
publicized because it’s surprising to see people in peak physical form suffer a
devastating heart-related incident, Dorian said.
the fact that Peverley, 31, was treated for a separate heart-related issue in
the fall, it’s likely that the incident that caused his cardiac arrest Monday
night was unrelated, according to Dorian.
September, Peverley underwent a procedure to treat an atrial fibrillation and
was given medication. He was later cleared for play. But early last week, some
of his symptoms came back.
of cardiac arrest Peverley suffered is typically caused by ventricular
fibrillation, which is characterized by extremely rapid, unco-ordinated beating
of the heart. Unless treated with CPR and defibrillation, the condition is
"uniformly fatal,” Dorian said.
very unlikely he’s ever had this before. Otherwise, they probably wouldn’t have
let him play,” he said.
Husband, executive director of the Canadian Sudden Arrhythmia Death Syndromes
Foundation, said many experts in Canada remain divided on the issue of
screening. But more awareness of the warning signs of sudden cardiac events,
notably fainting and a family history, can encourage people to see their
doctors and take steps to reduce their overall risks.
With files from James Mirtle
Published Tuesday, Mar. 11 2014, 11:12 PM EDT
Last updated Wednesday, Mar. 12 2014, 8:20 PM EDT