Preparticipation Screening of Young Athletes: Identifying Cardiovascular Disease

Prim Care. 2018 Mar;45(1):95-107. doi: 10.1016/j.pop.2017.11.005.


The most common cause of sudden cardiac death (SCD) in young athletes in the United States is "autopsy-negative sudden unexplained death." This makes it extremely difficult to screen for and diagnose predisposing cardiovascular conditions before athletic participation. The goal of the preparticipation physical examination is to detect risk factors for SCD, make risk-based decisions regarding the need for further workup, and ultimately recommend for or against participation. Current evidence recommends universal screening of young athletes using the 14-point American Heart Association preparticipation cardiovascular checklist. Electrocardiograms and echocardiograms are not currently recommended in the United States to screen athletes.

Keywords: Athlete’s heart; Cardiovascular screening; ECG; Preparticipation physical examination; Sports physical; Sudden cardiac death.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Athletes*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Child
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening*
  • Sports Medicine / methods
  • Sports Medicine / standards
  • Young Adult