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Heart check processes always under review

Roberton collapses in worrying circumstances St Kilda defender Dylan Roberton has been helped from the ground after suddenly collapsing
We've had two recently, if we don't have another two for another five years, is it still reasonably cost effective to do it on every player, every year? And the answer on that is probably not at this stage. Some things you can predict, some things you can't.
Dr Andrew Potter

AFL CLUB doctors will continue to monitor the outcomes of regular heart screenings after two players were sent to hospital with irregularities in the past month.

St Kilda's Dylan Roberton spent 24 hours in hospital after collapsing off the ball in Sunday's loss to Geelong, while Collingwood's Kayle Kirby was admitted for two nights in a similar incident in a VFL practice match.

AFL Doctors' Association president Dr Andrew Potter said processes were always being reviewed for the wellbeing of players.  

"If we're getting frequent aberrations to what we think should be happening, then it will be reviewed and those people would re-think it," Potter told AFL.com.au.  

"The more complicated answer is how often is it happening. 

"We've had two recently, if we don't have another two for another five years, is it still reasonably cost effective to do it on every player, every year? And the answer on that is probably not at this stage.

"Some things you can predict, some things you can't."
 

Aspiring AFL players undergo an electrocardiogram (ECG) at the NAB AFL Draft Combine each year as part of a rigourous screening by club doctors.

In recent times, players such as this week's NAB AFL Rising Star Jaidyn Stephenson have been found to be carrying an arrhythmia, or an abnormality with their heart.  

"They're all screened with an ECG, certainly before draft camp. The policy is that the process is repeated at least every two years up until age 25," Dr Potter said.

"That's the advice not only from the AFL Doctors' Association but the Australasian College of Sports and Exercise Physicians.  

"The reason up to the age of 25 is the most common thing we're looking for in athletes is a cardiomyopathy, an enlargement of the heart which can lead to sudden death."

Potter conceded heart irregularities suffered by the likes of Roberton and Kirby would most likely not be present in an ECG screening.  

"When doctors complete an ECG, they're looking for a change in heart size and any electrical activity," he said.

"They're looking for any abnormality in the heart muscle, an arrhythmia. Not all arrhythmia's will show up in an ECG, they can be spontaneous." 

Potter said an annual screening with players of all ages with club doctors would be searching for symptoms that may require further testing.   

"If there's been any symptoms or anything then there will be further investigations including a further ECG, maybe an ultrasound, scan for an echocardiograph or maybe they'll go on to see a cardiologist." 

Dr Andrew Potter retired as senior doctor at the Adelaide Football Club in 2016 after 10 years and has previously worked with the Hockeyroos and the Australian Olympic Team.