Myerburg was one of the authors of a cost-effectiveness study published in 2010 in The Annals of Internal Medicine that found that screening with only a medical history and a physical exam saved just 0.56 life-years per 1,000 athletes at a cost of $111 per person. Adding an EKG to the testing would save 2.06 more life-years per 1,000 athletes at an additional cost of $89 per person — which would include further exams or treatment that might be required.
“If in adolescents, for whom you predict, you are buying 40 to 60 years of added life, that’s why we ought to push to identify these people because there is so much more to gain,” Myerburg says. “If you do this in mass programs and have an organized screening program you could do this relatively inexpensively — an addition of $10 per kid for screening with EKG, recognizing that right now it’s costing between $50 and $100 per kid for the routine,” Myerburg says.
Adds Dr. Ming-Lon Young, the director of pediatric cardiac electrophysiology at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital at Memorial in Hollywood: “For us, as cardiologists, we can do the EKG so we can pick up some of the diseases, but society needs to really accept the cost association.”
Screenings are regularly conducted at the college level and for pros, and the International Olympics Committee recommends them too.
“Well over 90 percent of all major pro athletes have screening EKGs but we don’t do that at the high school level,’’ Myerburg said. “If we are going to make progress we need to focus on the high school groups where the big numbers are.”
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