Sports Medicine Service Keeps Kids Alive

The sudden death of any student athlete is a tragedy.

"But because it's not a frequent occurrence, people don't think about it as very common," said Anthony Luke, MD, MPH, an associate clinical professor of orthopedic surgery and the director of the UCSF Human Performance Center. "This problem affects young people across our country."

The incidence of sudden death is roughly two out of every 100,000 student athletes annually. According to Luke, a member of the PlaySafe Sports Medicine Program staff, studies suggest doctors can reduce the risk by 90 percent by using electrocardiograms (EKGs) to identify possible heart problems early.

At PlaySafe events, doctors provide the physical exams required by law for athletes, while cardiologists, orthopedic experts, trainers, medical students and pediatricians round out the team for a comprehensive evaluation.

"It's a great, collaborative effort," said Christina Allen, MD, an associate clinical professor of orthopedic surgery at UCSF. "The whole parking lot is filled with volunteers, people giving up their Saturdays."

Additional photos by Chloe Jackman