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Friday, October 16, 1998 Published at 15:34 GMT 16:34 UK


Athletes advised to take heart tests

Screening could be an entry requirement for competitions

Athletes should be screened for heart conditions before taking part in sporting competitions, a coroner has said.

The recommendation came at the end of a two-day inquest into the death of Anna Loyley, who died after completing the Bath Half Marathon in March this year.

Ms Loyley collapsed seconds after crossing the finishing line. She was 26.

Anna Loyley's fiance Nick Raggett: "They need to employ professional paramedics"
Assistant Coroner Brian Whitehouse recorded a verdict of death by natural causes but said the cause of death was undetermined.

He said he would report the matter to the British Athletic Federation and ask them to require athletes to undergo pre-competition heart screening.

Heart disorder

The inquest heard yesterday from Dr William McKenna, a heart specialist, that Ms Loyley probably died as a result of a rare inherited heart disorder known as long QT syndrome.

[ image: Screening could detect irregular heartbeats]
Screening could detect irregular heartbeats
This is a disorder of the electrical system of the heart. It causes irregular heartbeats, and in particular a rhythm known as a torsade de pointes.

When this rhythm occurs, no blood is pumped out from the heart, and the brain becomes deprived of oxygen.

This in turn leads to sudden loss of consciousness and sudden death.

Dr McKenna said screening before such races could cut the number of young people who die suddenly, although Ms Loyley's condition was particularly difficult to detect.

However, he added: "I am very much aware that that has its problems for the British Athletic Federation and race organisers but I believe the day will come when that screening will be compulsory.

"I believe that if my voice brings that day nearer that is something I should do."

After the hearing Phil Loyley, Anna's father, said: "This will hopefully reduce the number of deaths and will give people hope who are thinking of running in a marathon but are frightened by what happened to Anna."

Resuscitation attempts

The court heard valuable minutes were lost during an effort to resuscitate Ms Loyley and electric shocks were given more than three minutes after medical equipment showed they were needed.

The hearing was told that every minute of the delay meant the chance of successfully treating Ms Loyley was reduced by up to 10%.

Two St John Ambulance first aiders were the first to Ms Loyley's side and they were followed shortly by a doctor who had been running in the race and an anaesthetist who had been shopping in Bath.

Mr Whitehouse rejected a submission from Simon Taylor, lawyer for Ms Loyley's family, that there had been a lack of care during resuscitation attempts on her.

He said: "It seems to me that they were doing the best they possibly could in the circumstances for Anna."

He also praised the two off-duty doctors who had rushed to help.

"Nothing should be done to inhibit that sort of action by doctors," he said.

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The British Athletic Federation

Long QT Syndrome

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