The Hicham El Hage Program for Young Hearts and Athletes Health
Overview of the fund
Champs Fund: the Hicham El Hage Program for Young Hearts and Athletes Health is a charitable fund established in April 2014 within the department of Family Medicine at the American University of Beirut Medical Center (AUBMC). The Fund is founded in memory of Hicham El Hage, a 15 year old young athlete who collapsed on the Football field while practicing with his school team on May 1, 2010 due to an undiagnosed hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
The Fund aims at preventing sudden cardiac death in young athletes through advocating a mandatory cardiac screening of athletes, raising public awareness regarding cardiac risk amongst the young, and ensuring better preparedness and safety of sports areas through the availability of Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) and Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)-certified coaches.
Sudden cardiac arrest is the leading cause of death among young athletes (aged 12 to 35 years) worldwide. In the United Kingdom, 12 young people are reported to die suddenly every week and in the United States, one young person is reported to die every 2 to 3 days. Several international scientific societies and international sports organizations recommend conducting cardiac screening before enrollment in competitive sports. Moreover, prompt CPR and utilization of AED have been shown to improve the chance of survival of young athletes from sudden cardiac arrest.
The main objectives of the Fund are:
- To advocate mandatory pre-participation examination, including cardiac screening, for all athletes in schools, universities, and professional teams.
- To develop a cardiac screening program model for early detection of heart diseases in young athletes.
- To conduct community-based cardiac screening for the young (aged 12 to 35 years), namely athletes.
- To improve public awareness regarding cardiac risk in young athletes and the young population in general.
- To advocate for safe sports fields, making automated external defibrillators (AED) available in sports fields and ensuring that coaches are trained on conducting cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and using AEDs.
- To conduct training workshops for primary health care doctors on conducting cardiac screening and EKG reading for athletes.
- To conduct capacity building programs that will improve the skills and knowledge of professionals (health care workers, coaches, and sports trainers) in the prevention and early detection of cardiac risks in young athletes as well as the provision of emergency support ( CPR and use of defibrillators) if needed.
- To provide support to families affected by the sudden death of a young person.
- To assist socio-economically vulnerable young persons in meeting the cost of screening, diagnostic tests for heart diseases, and/or treatment.
- To conduct research in this field and contribute to the development of a national registry for heart diseases among young athletes.
Activities conducted so far
Since its establishment, the Champs Fund has been active at different levels in order to fulfill its mission. Activities were conducted at the level of advocacy, awareness raising, provision of free cardiac screening, and capacity building of relevant professionals. These activities are highlighted below:
- An advocacy meeting with sports leagues and clubs in Lebanon in the presence of the Minister of Youth and Sports was held on August 29, 2014 where the need to make the pre-participation exam mandatory for all athletes was discussed, in addition to ensuring safe sports fields (with CPR-trained coaches and AEDs available in the sports fields).
- A training of 30 doctors from different primary health centers in Lebanon on performing the pre-participation exam and reading electrocardiograms (EKGs) for athletes.
- The provision of free cardiac screenings for young athletes, in the family medicine clinics at AUBMC, as well as in schools, universities, and sports clubs. Cardiac screening includes a doctor’s assessment, a blood pressure measurement, and an electrocardiogram (EKG). Around 750 athletes have been screened so far.
- The training of sports trainers/coaches on CPR and the use of AEDs in collaboration with the Life Support Center of the Nursing Department at the American University of Beirut Medical Center. As a result of the training, participants receive a ‘Heartsaver’ certification for 2 years, issued by the American Heart Association. A total of 100 coaches and physical education teachers have received this training so far.
- The organization of several awareness sessions targeting multiplegroups: the public, decision makers, sports authorities, and health professionals.