Jan 3, 2017Dual Purpose
This past summer, Brian Hainline, MD, the NCAA’s Chief Medical Officer, stated that enhanced cardiac screenings of student-athletes should be a top priority for athletic departments. At Virginia Tech, this has been the standard for years.
All members of the Virginia Tech men’s and women’s basketball teams and the football team undergo an EKG to screen for cardiac issues. Athletes whose family history includes cardiac abnormalities receive a cardiac work-up, as well.
“We’re trying to catch things up front that someone may have missed or maybe didn’t even know about,” Mark Rogers, DO, MA, CAQSM, Assistant Professor of Family Medicine and Sports Medicine at the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine and Head Team Physician for the Virginia Tech football team, told HokieSports.com. “Often, in cases of sudden cardiac death in athletes, there are no symptoms that precede it, so hopefully we can intervene ahead of time and try to prevent that. That would be ideal.
“Many of these student-athletes come in, and they’re pretty healthy,” he continues, “but if we can find something that can improve their performance or help them stay safe and healthy, we’d rather intervene now than see it become an issue five or 10 years from now.”
Lately, the Virginia Tech sports medicine staff has found that EKG testing sessions can also be used to introduce athletes to other wellness topics. The goal is for the student-athletes to become a bit more informed about their health by the time they graduate.
“I think we can do a better job of educating our student-athletes and give them the tools to succeed that will help them become more health conscious when they leave,” Dr. Rogers said.
How exactly do they do that? By making athletes more involved in and informed about their own health.
“I would like for the student-athletes to start their medical home here at Virginia Tech,” Dr. Rogers said. “They can start a file with their medical test results, or other records, hopefully have a solid understanding of these results, and we [can] then take the opportunity to educate them about their health … Are there some lifestyle changes that need to be made? All of our student-athletes are training regularly, so they’re getting the exercise piece, but maybe there is a dietary piece that they need. That’s when we’ll bring in sports nutrition colleagues to say, ‘Hey, instead of eating red meat, you need to eat more fish,’ or, ‘Add some more iron-rich foods.’”
Dr. Rogers personally takes a more interactive approach.
“I’m big on showing [athletes] their numbers,” he said. “If it’s an X-ray, I’ll show them the picture. If it’s a lab test, I’ll show them the results. I often give the student-athletes a copy of their results, if they want it.
“We really want to be ahead of everyone else—and for a lot of stuff, I think we are,” Dr. Rogers continued. “If we can put some more preventive measures and education measures in place, then at least when our student-athletes are done competing, they’re a step ahead.”