While high school athletes will not yet be required to undergo electrocardiogram (ECG) screenings, researchers and practitioners in the Department of Health and Kinesiology at Texas A&M University are actively providing screenings to recreational athletes, students and other members of the Texas A&M community.
Texas House Bill 767 would have made Texas the first state to require ECG screenings for high school athletes in addition to the traditional physical examination at a student’s first and third year of participation in athletics. Costs associated with performing the ECG tests as well as limited data on the benefits of ECG testing kept the bill from passing.
Dr. Stephen F. Crouse, director of the Applied Exercise Science Lab (AESL) at Texas A&M University, explains, “The ECG test has a 60% sensitivity. Meaning, if 100 people had heart problems and were given an ECG stress test, only 60 of them would turn out positive. This propels many to have outspoken views of making ECG tests mandatory in the state level or otherwise because of the liabilities that come with false results.”
High schools in Bryan/College Station have been known to curb the high medical costs in the past for bringing non-profit organizations like the Cypress ECG Project to offer resting ECG tests for their students at the rate of $15 per student. This is an inexpensive fee compared to the standard cost of paying doctor fees, test fees and so on.
The benefits of an ECG test tend to tie in mostly with recreational and student athletes. Some few heart conditions can be picked up but as Dr. Crouse states, “[An ECG test] won’t catch everything.”
Physicians are now starting to think about adding it on with medical history, allowing the doctors to see if there is any unusual activity as the patient ages. The ECG test allows doctors to flag complications that must be followed up with further examinations.
Additionally, Texas A&M has begun doing resting ECG tests with their incoming athletes. This allows the coaches to have information on the student athlete’s medical history. If they are to develop or show any symptoms, there will be a history to draw on.
While the conversation of ECG goes on, there are some options for individuals who want to be screened. The AESL performs health and fitness assessments, which include the ECG test, to the community and students.
These assessments carry out Cardiovascular Health Profile (CHP) and Cardiovascular Risk Profile (CRP) and can cost anywhere from $50-70 depending on the option chosen. AESL also provides body composition exams that state how much of the body is composed of muscle, fat, and bone density.
For more info on ECG resources at Texas A&M, visit: http://fitlife.tamu.edu/healthfitness-assessments