Heart Screenings

There are many questions about whether a heart screening is right for your student-athlete.  Below are some frequently asked questions:

Who should be screened for heart conditions?

  1. Family history of premature or sudden death. If anyone in your family history died suddenly or prematurely, schedule a pre-participation Electrocardiogram (EKG).
  2. Personal history of heart disease. If you or your child have an inherited heart condition, have had any type of heart surgery, or have ever suffered a heart attack, get a pre-participation EKG and other related testing your specialist determines is necessary.
  3. Cardiac Symptoms.  It is very important to listen to your body if something feels out of the ordinary. Common cardiac symptoms include but not limited to:
    • Chest pain during exercise
    • Shortness of breath
    • Extreme fatigue
    • Dizziness
    • Palpitation
    • Fainting or near fainting
    • Sudden acceleration or deceleration of your heart rate

Answer this brief Student Athletic Questionnaire to determine if you may need further evaluation.


What screenings should I ask for?

Depending on your situation, your medical provider may order an Electrocardiogram, Echocardiogram or both.

Electrocardiograms (EKG or ECG) display the patterns of your heart as it beats, which doctors can use to determine if there are any abnormalities in your heart’s rhythm. It is used to detect irregular heartbeats, changes in the thickness of the heart walls, or potential damage to the heart muscle and tissue

Echocardiograms (Echo) create visual images of the heart and are far more advanced testing procedures that help doctors view the internal structure of your heart and how well blood is able to flow through heart and if it is pumping efficiently.


How often should an athlete be tested?

It is recommended for student-athletes to get tested every two years.


What age can an athlete start getting screenings without known history?

Per the American Heart Association, student athletes should start getting screenings as early as 12. The recommended testing range that is recommended is between ages 12 to 22.


What age can an athlete start getting screenings with known history?

Refer to your family physician if your student-athlete has a known history of heart issues/disease.


If my screening came out normal do I need to get tested again? Why?

Yes it is highly recommended to get tested again preferably every two years regardless of prior tests showing normal signs. Heart arrhythmia patterns can potentially change with growing age and can develop abnormal patterns over time.


Where can I go to get screenings done?

There are many places that offer heart screenings. The best place to start is by asking your family physician, local pediatric cardiologist, local cardiologist or hospital. They will be able to tell you if they offer the screenings or if other facilities, schools, or clinics near you offer them.


Will my insurance cover heart screenings?

If you don’t have a history of heart disease, insurance may or may not cover heart screenings. Talk to your provider for more details.  Oftentimes local hospitals or clinics offer them free of charge or heavily discounted as part of joint efforts with school districts.

Currently there is no mandatory screening protocol for high school student-athletes prior to participating in sports.  This is where you can make a difference.  One of the missions of the John Lee Foundation is to provide free screenings to student-athletes regardless of known family history.

Help us provide student-athletes with the ability to “know their heart” and decrease the risk of sudden cardiac arrest.

Donate Today


Please know that although providing athletes with the opportunity to receive screenings is the first step, screenings alone are not enough to prevent sudden cardiac death and many diseases that cause sudden death in athletes cannot be detected by EKGs.  This actually rang true for John as he received an EKG screening through a program in his school district in 2014 and the results came back normal.  Unfortunately the screenings are not always 100% accurate and more research is needed for better detection of Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. We want to prevent these inaccurate results from happening again. With the proper research and accurate screening techniques we hope to save other student-athletes from receiving the same fate as John.


Sources: UT Southwestern https://utswmed.org/medblog/EKG-screening-athletes-ncaa/ World Journal of Cardiology 2010, American Heart Association https://news.heart.org/screening-young-athletes-for-heart-disease/