A silent killer takes the lives of student athletes every year—and a simple test can detect it, saving these lives. So how can we increase the adoption of the test in schools and routine primary care visits?

That’s the central question of clinical research by Jack Cadigan III, MD, a cardiologist with Brigham and Women’s Hospital working to highlight the risks associated with sudden cardiac death—the number-one medical killer of young athletes. In partnership with the nonprofit Boston ECG Project, Dr. Cadigan is offering free electrocardiograms (ECGs) in schools to shed light on the routine test’s utility in identifying undiagnosed, asymptomatic conditions that can trigger sudden cardiac death.

It’s an issue that hits close to home for Dr. Cadigan. His son, Jack Cadigan IV, was diagnosed with a significant cardiac anomaly when his father performed an ECG on his son serendipitously while the pair was on a service trip together in Haiti. Following surgical repair, the younger Cadigan is healthy—and now a vocal advocate for routine ECGs alongside his father.

“If my son can be saved, how can I not extend the same offering, with this test, to other children,” notes Dr. Cadigan.

The routine test, performed for free at high schools across Massachusetts, has already identified treatable cardiac conditions among students screened—proof positive, says Dr. Cadigan, that the test should be a standard diagnostic performed at every child’s wellness physical.

“There is not a school we go into that we don’t find something very significant,” said Dr. Cadigan. “Everything from a life-threatening condition to something not necessarily life-threatening but very important and when you see that over and over again, you start saying, ‘Hey, this is the heart we’re talking about.’”

Find more on the study and pilot ECG program at Boston 25 News.