Cardiac Screening in Young People

By Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine UK, 29 May, 2024 | 4 min read

The charity Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) and the Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine UK believes ALL young people should have the opportunity to have their heart tested.

One in every 300 of the young people that CRY tests will be identified with a potentially life threatening condition.

1 in every 100 people CRY tests will have a condition that is less serious but could cause problems in later life.

Screening will not identify all young people at risk of sudden death. However, in Italy, where screening is required for all young people engaged in organised sport, screening has reduced the incidence of young sudden cardiac death by 89%.

Any person who is between the age of 14 and 35 who would like to be tested just needs to go to www.testmyheart.org.uk. The majority of CRY’s work for the public is fully funded in memory of a young person who has died suddenly.

Every week in the UK, 12 apparently fit and healthy young people, age 35 and under, die from undiagnosed cardiac conditions.

Sometimes there are symptoms prior to cardiac arrest or death, these include a number of red flag symptoms

BUT you cannot rely on symptoms as 80% of all young sudden cardiac deaths will occur with no prior symptoms and the only way to identify people who are asymptomatic and at risk is through cardiac testing using at least an ECG.

Sport itself does not cause young sudden cardiac death (#YSCD) but it will increase the risk of YSCD by threefold if a person has an underlying heart condition they are unaware of. Deaths in sport are often high profile due to athletes often representing the fittest segment of our society. However, the vast majority of young sudden cardiac deaths do not occur in elite athletes.

There are international recommendations that all young people should be tested prior to participation in organised sport. In Italy this has been law since 1978 that all young people have an ECG prior to participation in organised sport.

It should be noted that cardiac screening cannot predict cardiac health on a long-term basis, and if a person experiences any symptoms that cause concern, they should follow this up with their GP. Cardiac screening cannot detect every cardiac abnormality, but it will detect the majority of conditions that are most likely to affect young people.

It is also important to note that some cardiac conditions can develop later in adolescence or even adulthood. For sports participation, professional athletes are often recommended to have regular cardiac screening, at least every 2 years. Currently CRY recommends that all young people in the general population should be screened at least once after they turn 14. However, the more regularly a person is screened the more likely it is that a cardiac condition which is acquired at a later date will be identified. CRY is conducting research to best inform how often young people in the general population should be retested. 

[Creation date: 2016, last updated: 2024]

This Position Statement was produced in collaboration with Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) and authored by Dr Steven Cox, Chief Executive of CRY. Statistics taken from CRY Statistics page.

Endorsed by: BASEM