Feb 14, 2018Comprehensive Screenings
At Virginia Tech, the sports medicine staff works hard to maximize athlete performance and minimize injury. One of the ways they do this is through a detailed preseason medical screening program.
These assessments have allowed the sports medicine staff to identify at-risk athletes and initiate treatment before they begin training. In addition, the screens engage student-athletes in their personal health by integrating them into our system early on and introducing them to team physicians, sports nutrition, strength and conditioning, and athletic training staffs. Here’s a look at how we test for sickle cell trait (SCT), iron deficiencies, and cardiac issues:
Sickle cell trait: We test for SCT in a lab screening. All athletes who test positive are required to meet with our team physicians to discuss the results and become educated on the potential risks of playing sports with SCT. Further, we require these athletes to complete online training on SCT through the NCAA’s Sport Science Institute. They are then closely monitored and acclimatized during their training, both in and out of season.
Iron screening: The purpose of screening for iron deficiency is to identify clinically relevant, preexisting hematological abnormalities. Our goal as a medical staff is to ensure adequate hematologic testing for all “high risk sport” student-athletes. These individuals are identified by their team’s athletic trainer or a physician during a physical.
Between 2010 and 2012, we screened 149 student-athletes for iron deficiency, and 88 (59 percent) of them met the criteria with a ferritin level of less than 40. Any student-athlete who is found to have low ferritin levels receives dietary recommendations from one of our sports nutritionists, along with counseling from a team physician. They are also instructed to begin taking ferrous sulfate 325 milligrams (mg) (65 mg of elemental iron) two to three times daily on an empty stomach, with 500 mg of vitamin C to increase absorption.
Cardiovascular screening: Our cardiovascular screen provides student-athletes with a determination of medical eligibility for competitive sports by identifying (or raising suspicion of) clinically relevant, preexisting abnormalities. Any athlete identified as “high risk” based on their medical history and physician’s exam is given an electrocardiogram (ECG). Once the physician has reviewed the ECG, it is sent to the team cardiologist for analysis.
From 2008 to 2013, we studied cardiac screenings for athletes from 14 different sports. A total of 388 student-athletes (11 percent) tested positive for potential cardiac issues and received a subsequent ECG. There were 13 different categories of findings from these ECGs, and the most common (28 percent) was that of “normal” or no pathological finding or abnormality.