Boston doctor hoping to save student-athlete lives with old technology

BOSTON — Starting this spring, students at Boston Latin School will be tested for a type of heart condition that can go undetected.

The flaw can be sudden and fatal, and can often claim the lives of athletes. But a local doctor says he's able to screen for the issue with an old technology, being used in a new way.

Sudden Cardiac Death claims the lives of 100 to 150 athletes every year.

The number one cause, says Boston Children's Hospital's Dr. Gian Corrado, is something called hypertrophic cardiomyopothy.

“Which is abnormal thickening of the heart that pre-disposes people to sudden, cardiac death,” Dr. Corrado explained.

He told FOX25 in the average physical exam, it can be difficult to catch using a stethoscope.  And he says electrocardiograms (EKGs) can often produce false positives, which for athletes can mean a pause in play as more tests are done.

Dr. Corrado says there's a better way.

“I believe the ultrasound will save the physical exam, which many of us believe is a rubber stamp,” he said.

Ultrasound is commonly known as a tool used on pregnant women. But from the hospital's sports medicine department, Dr. Corrado is using it to detect an enlarged heart.

“This will be the future. It's just a matter of how fast we can validate it, and how fast we can get other practitioners doing it,” he said.

Dr. Corrado isn't a cardiologist. He's just a doctor who cares. Long before the white coat, he was in a pick-up game of basketball when another player dropped to the ground.

“He just died,” Corrado said.

Now he wants to prevent similar situations, and their devastating consequences. He believes when medical professionals realize what a powerful tool a portable ultrasound can be, they'll use it.

“You'll see every mid-level provider with it, I'm sure of it,” he said.

Dr. Corrado has already performed the screenings on athletes at Northeastern, where he's head team physician.

He now will do the same at Boston Latin, but he's hoping eventually to see all Boston Public Schools students undergo the screenings.

Dr. Corrado says it only takes a brief training to know what to look for.

Comments on this article