Safe or sorry: EKG takes minutes, prevents deaths

John Adkisson, co-sports editors

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On Aug. 3, Jesus Lupian collapsed on the soccer field, dying later that day. He had turned 20 one week prior to his death.

Jesus, an alum of South and John Hersey High School and a sophomore at Robert Morris University, was a hard worker and loved by everyone that knew him. Before his death, Lupian was playing soccer for Robert Morris and majoring in accounting. He was the first member of his family to go to college.

As a freshman at South, I had the great pleasure of being acquainted with Jesus through our soccer program. My first impression of him was that of an incredibly nice, wholesome and down-to-earth kid who absolutely loved the game of soccer; he always had a smile on his face and made everyone around him happy both on and off the field.

I could spend a long time writing about how great Jesus was, which can be evidenced by the numerous posts about him on the Facebook page dedicated to his memorial (which I encourage everyone to look at). However, I think it is necessary to talk about what can be done to ensure that a death like Jesus’s will not happen again. To do this, I implore that all athletes have an Electrocardiogram (EKG) conducted before competing.

An EKG test measures for the electrical activity in the heart; if there are irregular patterns in the readings a doctor can notice them and direct the patient to the necessary follow-up exams.

EKG testing does have its drawbacks. According to consumerhealthchoices.org, the tests are not always accurate, and for low-risk subjects, they can often produce misleading results.

Furthermore, testing positive requires follow-up tests that expose subjects to radiation equal to that of 600 to 800 chest X-rays, something that should not be done unless necessary. In some cases, false positives even lead to overtreatment with drugs and unnecessary angioplasty (an invasive procedure conducted to enlarge the opening in arteries). Some experts suggest avoiding radiation exposure as much as possible, and thus recommend not getting an EKG test without symptoms of heart problems.

While this all may be true, another South case shows the benefits of taking an EKG test. Two years ago, JJ Connor, 2012 graduate, varsity swimmer and water polo player, was diagnosed with Long QT syndrome, a disease of the heart named after the pattern displayed on the EKG results, according to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. Long QT syndrome is “a heart rhythm disorder that can cause fast, chaotic heartbeats, fainting spells, seizures and sudden death,” according to the Mayo Clinic.

In general, covering your bases and taking an EKG test is much more beneficial than it is potentially harmful. Many schools, South included, have coordinated programs that offer free EKG. Even without this luxury, all athletes should pay the $50 the test generally costs, as saving a life like Jesus’s is worth more than any dollar amount.

If your test comes back with problems, do not hesitate to receive further testing. Dr. Johnathan Drezner, associate professor of family medicine at the University of Washington and vice president of the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, suggests that the EKG is a helpful tool if used correctly.

“No one is recommending you only do an EKG,” Drezner said. “It really is the combined protocol of history and EKG that provides the more advanced heart screening that we should aim for.”

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