Heart testing important for all athletes

Posted at 5:42 PM, Apr 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-26 20:44:05-04

Friends and family continue to be shocked by the news of West High School junior Sierra Gabbert's heart attack last Thursday.

Gabbert, a two-sport standout for the Vikings, suffered the heart attack at home. Even though it did not happen on the field, it is raising awareness about testing young athletes for heart issues.

Dr. Jared Salvo, a cardio electrophysiologist at Central Cardiology Medical Clinic, says that athletes put additional strain on their hearts compared to "normal" people. 

"In an athlete, it can be something congenial where they were born with either a structural abnormality in their heart or perhaps  the heart does not metabolize electrolytes in a normal fashion," said Dr. Salvo. 

Friends of Gabbert say that she remains in critical condition. A test conducted yesterday showed that Gabbert has an extra nerve in her heart and it might be the cause of the heart attack.

Dr. Salvo says EKG testing is not standard in the U.S. but it could help find potential heart issues for young athletes.

"The rest of the world has become quite good at screening athletes coming into high school competitive athletics," Dr. Salvo said.
"I look at countries, like Italy and Japan, where routine EKGs, which is a very basic electrical recording of the heart, is done on incoming high school athletes."
Central Cardiology Medical Clinic says EKG testing is usually $15. Dr. Salvo says it could save a young athlete's life.
"It may not always be covered by insurance but I think it will increasingly become the standard and an EKG is a very inexpensive investment in your child's future."
To learn more about Sierra Gabbert, here are the links to two GoFundMe pages: