ACCORDING to National Sports Institute (ISN) chief executive officer Datuk Dr Ramlan Abdul Aziz, our national athletes have to go through a medical screening annually, and six months prior to a major meet like the SEA Games.
The screening is provided free at ISN. The full medical test includes a physical examination, blood and urine tests, chest X-rays, plus any other radiological investigation deemed necessary by the doctor.
“An ECG and/or examination of the cardiovascular system is also carried out, and if there are any abnormalities, we refer them to a cardiologist,” he says.
Due to the intensity of the training, many things can go wrong. Those not in centralised training are recommended to go for medical check-ups, although this is not mandatory.
“It is only logical to do the check-up when you need it. Some of the athletes are based out of KL, so it’s not practical for them to come to ISN to do the test. If we make it mandatory, then it becomes a logistical issue. Alternatively, they can go to any government hospital or clinic for the check-up,” he says.
Basketball player Jacky Ng, who was newly drafted into the national team, never went for the medical check-up. He collapsed while sitting on a bench during the team’s invitational match in Jinjiang, China, and was pronounced dead after doctors failed to revive him.
Dr Ramlan said: “The basketball teams have always been good with their annual medical check-ups. Prior to that unfortunate tragedy, the women’s team had done theirs, while the men were supposed to have theirs done after the tournament in China. To be able to go to the SEA Games, you need at least six months validity for your medical examination.”
In our National Service programme, medical screening is not mandatory either. Those chosen are exempted if they have a fatal or contagious disease or condition (requires official confirmation by a medical officer), are physically disabled, pregnant, undergoing drug rehabilitation or are insane.
“It is important that they go through some kind of screening. Assuming everyone is healthy, surely there will be deaths in the group if they are not screened. Singapore screens all their national service candidates, but even then, they have incidences of sudden death,” says consultant cardiologist and electrophysiologist Dr Azlan Hussin. - Revathi Murugappan