A statement released by the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children should be screened for potential heart problems that could lead to a sudden cardiac arrest or death--not just those who play sports or have any athletic involvement.


It's common for children in middle and high school to need a 'physical' before they play sports. Typically, that physical would do some sort of routine check on their heart health, as stress on hearts with issues could lead to sudden cardiac arrest or death.

But now the American Academy of Pediatrics is updating a policy statement that recommends the asking of four additional questions during a routine physical, even if the children are not involved in athletics. They recommend this screening be done at least every three years into the child's high school years.

Made more concrete as Danish soccer player collapsed on the soccer field at 29 as he suffered a cardiac arrest that left him 'gone' and then resuscitated with a defibrillator, the AAP believes that heart health is an issue that should be addressed in all kids, not just 'athletic' ones.

Several different things can make a child's heart stop--not just participation in a sport. Dr. Christopher Erickson is a pediatric cardiologist at Children's Hospital and Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska. In an interview with Today Parents, he said that it's unimaginable to think that one day a child could be sitting in class and the next not because of a heart attack, but it can happen.

The questions primary care doctors are now advised to ask include the following:
  1. Have you ever fainted, passed out or had an unexplained seizure suddenly and without warning, especially during exercise or in response to sudden loud noises such as doorbells, alarm clocks and ringing telephones?
  2. Have you ever had exercise-related chest pain or shortness of breath?
  3. Has anyone in your immediate family or other more distant relatives died of heart problems or had an unexpected sudden death before age 50? This would include unexpected drownings, unexplained car accidents in which the relative was driving, or sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
  4. Are you related to anyone with HCM or hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy, Marfan syndrome, arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy, long QT syndrome, short QT syndrome, BrS, or CPVT or anyone younger than 50 years with a pacemaker or implantable defibrillator?
If the answer to any of those is 'yes' then Dr. Erickson believes a cardiology evaluation is in order.

If your doctor or health practitioner doesn't ask these questions, consider discussing them at your child's next physical.