HOCM screenings in Quincy

Technician performs a heart ultrasound / Photo by: Chad Douglas

The most common cause of sudden death in American athletes is called is called Hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy or H-O-C-M.

The condition is considered rare, but H-O-C-M affects one in about every two thousand people, many of them teenagers.

H-O-C-M is a condition where the pumping chambers of your heart thicken.

"During that thickening, there is also some fibrious tissue in the heart as well. It can increase your chances for abnormal heart rythms," says Cardiologist, Dr. John Hammock.

And that can be really bad if a person gets dehydrated. It can be a fatal condition if the enlargement affects the flow of blood to your heart. Blessing Hospital and its cardiologists are offering free screenings of the heart via ultra sound in an effort to keep your students safe.

"It takes a minute and it's very screenable and detectable with ultra sound. Just looking at the heart and looking for that big aorta or thick septum," says Sheree Schroeder, the Director of Blessing's Heart and Vascular Center.

Marfan Syndrome can enlarge a person's aorta and cause it to burst, which of course is fatal. You don't have to be an athlete to get screened, but it's recommended if you play sports. The screenings are free, and are not part of the annual physical most teenage athletes go through before the season starts. H-O-C-M happens in both boys and girls, but statistics show it is a little more prevalent in boys. The screening involves a technician scanning the heart with the ultrasound machine. A cardiologist looks as the test is being performed, so if there is a problem, the doctor knows immediately. If a problem were to be found, the student would be told not to work out until they had further testing.

This is just step one of what Blessing plans to offer.

Beginning next week, doctors will take portable equipment into the schools for screenings.

By the way, you don't have to be a student athlete to get screened.