Chang, A.C. Pediatr Cardiol (2012) 33: 428. doi:10.1007/s00246-012-0244-5
The preparticipation screening for athlete participation in sports typically entails a comprehensive medical and family history and a complete physical examination. A 12-lead electrocardiogram (ECG) can increase the likelihood of detecting cardiac diagnoses such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, but this diagnostic test as part of the screening process has engendered considerable controversy. The pro position is supported by argument that international screening protocols support its use, positive diagnosis has multiple benefits, history and physical examination are inadequate, primary prevention is essential, and the cost effectiveness is justified. Although the aforementioned myriad of justifications for routine ECG screening of young athletes can be persuasive, several valid contentions oppose supporting such a policy, namely, that the sudden death incidence is very (too) low, the ECG screening will be too costly, the false-positive rate is too high, resources will be allocated away from other diseases, and manpower is insufficient for its execution. Clinicians, including pediatric cardiologists, have an understandable proclivity for avoiding this prodigious national endeavor. The controversy, however, should not be focused on whether an inexpensive, noninvasive test such as an ECG should be mandated but should instead be directed at just how these tests for young athletes can be performed in the clinical imbroglio of these disease states (with variable genetic penetrance and phenotypic expression) with concomitant fiscal accountability and logistical expediency in this era of economic restraint. This monumental endeavor in any city or region requires two crucial elements well known to business scholars: implementation and execution. The eventual solution for the screening ECG dilemma requires a truly innovative and systematic approach that will liberate us from inadequate conventional solutions. Artificial intelligence, specifically the process termed “machine learning” and “neural networking,” involves complex algorithms that allow computers to improve the decision-making process based on repeated input of empirical data (e.g., databases and ECGs). These elements all can be improved with a national database, evidence-based medicine, and in the near future, innovation that entails a Kurzweilian artificial intelligence infrastructure with machine learning and neural networking that will construct the ultimate clinical decision-making algorithm.