Two Longford GAA clubs will hold professional cardiac screenings this Saturday to look for any irregular heart patterns in their players, and members of the wider public.
Both St Mary’s Granard and Mullinalaghta GAA clubs have organised for their players to be checked for signs of cardiac abnormalities this weekend.
“We know that our players are healthy and fit, but we don’t know what’s underneath,” Northern Gaels Chairperson, Finbar Meehan explained. “In the past six months, three young GAA players have died and it has given parents and players a fright.”
Patrick Maguire, Secretary of St Mary’s Minor Club, is reporting strong interest in the screening with over 50 people confirmed for Saturday. “It’s better to act before it’s too late, and that’s what we’re doing. This is not just a GAA thing, this screening is open to anyone who wants to avail of it between the ages of 14 and 35,” Patrick said.
‘Healthy Hearts, Healthy Lives’, who will carry out the tests this Saturday, facilitates locally arranged cardiac screening clinics for those aged 14-35. It also aims to raise awareness of conditions that can lead to Sudden Death Syndrome (SDS).
Their primary focus is on screening people who wish to engage in sporting activities. However, their service is available to all who wish to under-go screening who are 14 years of age or older.
Tony McEntee, former Armagh footballer and co-founder of the ‘Healthy Hearts, Healthy Lives’ programme, estimates five GAA players have lost their lives through SDS in the last 12 months. The recent high profile heart attacks of Premiership footballer Fabrice Muamba and the death of Cathal Forde, a Galway hurler based in London last week, have brought this issue to the fore once again.
“An individual may have a cardiac abnormality without having any symptoms. About one in 300 people have an undetected heart abnormality, and our tests are about discovering those before it is too late,” Mr McEntee told the Leader.
In the past year of testing, ‘Healthy Hearts, Healthy Lives’ has sent seven to ten percent of participants on for further testing. “Of that number, many will have the echo cardiogram with just a few needing to go to hospital for further tests. In the last year, four or five players have been asked to stop playing sports after discoveries made during our tests.”
The screening itself is painless. It involves filling out a detailed questionnaire, before undertaking an electrocardiogram (ECG), which is a tracing of the heartbeat. This allows the Consultant cardiologist to study for an irregular heartbeat which could lead to sudden cardiac arrest. If the ECG shows up any irregularities, the individual will undertake an echo cardiogram on the day, which is akin to an ultrasound.
The screening costs €45 per person, which Tony believes is excellent value. “You wouldn’t get to a GP for that price today, and for many players it gives them the peace of mind that there’s nothing wrong or if there is, that at least they have found it.”
It is not too late to register for the screening in either club this weekend, with any people, male or female, aged 14-35 encouraged to contact Patrick Maguire in Granard on 087 661 3384 or Finbar Meehan in Mullinalaghta/ Abbeylara on 086 071 1137.
Any clubs interested in holding such a screening in their clubs can contact ‘Healthy Hearts, Healthy Lives’ on firstname.lastname@example.org.