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Every year, there are heartbreaking news stories about young, seemingly healthy student athletes suddenly collapsing on the field or court due to cardiac arrest. In many of these cases, young people’s lives are cut short as a result of an underlying heart condition.

Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM) is a serious genetic heart condition in which the heart muscle thickens. This abnormal thickening can lead to a host of problems, including the potential of developing life-threatening arrhythmias or irregular heart rhythms. When these rhythms occur, they can often be life threatening or fatal.

HCM affects one in 500 young athletes every year, often without any warning or symptoms. While it’s relatively easy to detect, it can be fatal if not diagnosed and treated.

For more than 10 years, Heart Hospital of Austin has provided free heart screenings twice a year for student athletes—ages 14 through 18. The screening includes a 12-lead electrocardiogram (EKG) and a limited two-dimensional echocardiogram, or ultrasound of the heart, to detect the deadly disorder. After each screening, a cardiologist reviews the results with the student and his or her family. To date, the hospital has screened more than 6,700 student athletes.

The next heart-screening event will be held on Saturday, August 19. To learn more, visit or call (512) 478-3627.

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