NFL considering echocardiograms

Updated: January 24, 2010, 1:31 PM ET
By Chris Mortensen | ESPN

Between the time of Bears defensive end Gaines Adams' death last Sunday to his funeral Friday, the NFL's Cardiovascular Committee began discussing the possibility of subjecting all players to a heart scan called an echocardiogram, starting with potential draft picks invited to the NFL scouting combine next month.

NFLPA medical director Thomas Mayer told ESPN that the medical examiner who performed an autopsy on Adams stated the enlarged heart that led to his death could have been detected by an echocardiogram.

But, as Mayer pointed out, the process is complicated.

Is the fear of legal liability going to influence a doctor? Are cardiologists going to agree on whether a player has an enlarged heart or an athlete's heart? Does that mean he's systematically finished as a football player?

More likely, a questionable echocardiogram could lead to more sensitive tests, such as a cardio catheter procedure.

Currently, echocardiograms are ordered only when a player has an abnormal EKG or has a family history of heart problems.

The NFLPA has reviewed Adams' medical files dating back to his entry into the league and his EKG and family history were normal.

Adams, who had just completed his third season in the NFL, went into cardiac arrest at his family's home in the early morning last Sunday in South Carolina.

The autopsy showed Adams had an enlarged heart, which can indicate hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a condition that often leads to cardiac arrest.

Chris Mortensen is the senior NFL analyst for ESPN.

ALSO SEE