2014 World Rowing Junior Championships
Hamburg, GER

Earlier this year FISA introduced a pre-competition health screening process in an effort to reduce ‘Sudden Cardiovascular Death in Sport’ (SCD). The screening is designed to indentify athletes that may be at risk of heart problems.

At the World Rowing Junior Championships, that starts on Wednesday 6 August, the screening will begin to take effect. The screening includes a questionnaire, an annual physical examination and an ECG, and follows the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) recommended procedure. This procedure came about from the IOC’s findings that the leading cause (more than 90 per cent) of non-traumatic sudden death in athletes is related to pre-existing heart problems.

For FISA, the policy was initiated by FISA’s sports medicine commission under the guidance of chair, Alain Lacoste. FISA sports medicine commission member Dr. Juergen Steinacker who specialises in cardiology says studies have shown that the mandatory screening done in Italy has meant the rate of SCD has diminished by 50 per cent. “In most cases of athletes dying of SCD it has been unnecessary. You can’t prevent everything but you can prevent SCD.”

Sports medicine commission member Dr. Mike Wilkinson commented that most heart conditions were pre-existing and the most common is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. “Very often an athlete can continue for their whole career and never know that they have a predisposition. Or the first time they know is when they collapse.”

“If screening is done,” says Wilkinson, “then it’s the most cost effective way of picking up abnormalities.”

As it is the responsibility of the national rowing federations to ensure and certify that the Pre-competition Health Screening procedures have been performed, FISA has produced the required text that needs to be sent to FISA:

“National Federations are required, under Bye-Law to Rule 99, section 1 (page 110 of the FISA Rule Book), to ensure and certify that the Pre-competition Health Screening procedures have been performed on all athletes competing in the 2014 World Rowing Junior Championships.”

From 2015, the same conditions will apply to all athletes entering the following events:
– World Rowing Junior Championships
– World Rowing Under 23 Championships
– World Rowing Championships

The required procedure is fully described on the World Rowing website: