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Taken from Irish News. By Paddy Heaney.
FORMER Armagh footballers John and Tony McEntee have set up a company that provides a test which identifies whether a sportsperson is at risk of Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD). Since Healthy Heart Healthy Lives went into business earlier this year, the Crossmaglen twins have conducted more than 1,000 screenings. “Our service is aimed towards all sports people – GAA, rugby, soccer, tennis, cricket – it doesn’t matter,” said Tony McEntee. “It’s generally for the age groups between 14 and 35-years-old. The primary purpose is to identify patients who are at risk of sudden death.”
The threat of Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD) was underlined again this month when 17-year-old Chris McNeill collapsed while playing in the Milk Cup. A doctor, whose son was playing for the opposing team, saved McNeill’s life using a defibrillator. Apart from asthma, McNeill had no previous medical conditions and was an active sportsperson.For the cost of £35, the examination provided by the McEntees can spot irregularities in the heart which can otherwise go undetected.
“Everybody gets an ECG (electrocardiogram) which is a tracing of the heartbeat. That can identify a large number of issues that can lead to Sudden Cardiac Death. “If the ECG test indicates that a person’s heart-rate is normal then the screening ends there. However, if any abnormalities are detected the initial cost also covers an echocardiogram, if that is the suitable test. A consultant cardiologist reads all the tests,” said Tony. McEntee, who helped guide Crossmaglen to an All-Ireland club title in his first year in management, insisted that the cost of £35 represents good value for money. “It used to be quite expensive and I could understand if people were reluctant, or couldn’t afford to pay for a screening. “But the way it is going now, it is now affordable. The cost is reasonable so it’s something that is advisable to get done,” he said.
Unlike other companies where the customer visits the clinic, the McEntee twins bring their clinic to their customers. “Where we differ from alternative services is that we go to clubs. We will go to your club and set up in your club at a time and date that suits you,” said Tony. Both the McEntee twins come from medical backgrounds. After working for 10 years as a cardio physiologist in the Royal Victoria Hospital, Tony has since moved into the private sector. John is a qualified occupational therapist. “I had a natural progression towards this type of work,” explained Tony.
The work conducted by Healthy Heart Healthy Lives has possibly prevented further fatalities. “We’ve done just over 1,000 screenings. From those screenings, three people have been asked to discontinue sport because of potential sudden death arrhythmias. Another five people have had to get a series of major tests done to clarify issues that could lead to a sudden death.” Given the traumatic health issues that can be revealed by their screening service, Tony McEntee stressed the importance of reading around the subject before taking a test.
“People should educate themselves about what might be seen. They should read the information booklets that are provided as part of the service. They need to realise some of the potential outcomes.” In the past fortnight, Slaughtneil referee Martin Mulholland died while taking charge of a club game in Derry. The previous week, Down referee Gabriel Tumelty was resuscitated after collapsing in Pairc Esler.
McEntee said it was necessary to draw a distinction between Sudden Cardiac Death, which affects the young, and heart disease which tends to affect older people. “Given what has happened during the past couple of weeks, there is a danger of being alarmist. In order to screen properly for heart disease you need to do exercise stress tests. Those are done on a treadmill with the ECG monitor attached. “It might not be feasible to do that on all referees, but where there is any danger, it should be done on an annual basis.”
McEntee welcomed recent initiatives by the GAA to reduce the age limit of referees. “That is definitely a good idea,” he said. “It will promote the recruitment of younger referees.” Sports clubs that want to find out more information about the screening service should visit: www.healthyheartshealthylives.com, email:
[email protected] or telephone: 07843468489