Getting to the heart of the issue

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USC is once again on the cutting edge.

Athletic trainers and strength coaches have been working together this summer to take proactive measures against a potentially life-threatening condition among football players. High-tech heart-rate monitors have been placed on certain athletes identified to have asthma or "sickle cell trait," a condition that has led to sudden deaths in several football players in recent years.

"It's another example of how we're out in front of the problem," head strength and conditioning coach Chris Carlisle said.

For the dozen or so players identified to potentially be at risk, a chest transmitter sends info to a watch device, with the data then transferred to a computer for team cardiologist Mark Lurie to examine.

"We've got to understand what they're going through before we can improve it," head athletic trainer Russ Romano said. "It's a positive thing because now we're learning more."

The data gives doctors and trainers a better idea of the athletes' reaction to increased heart activity, shedding light on certain patterns that could be hazardous to their health and lead to major injury.

"It gives us a fingerprint of the athlete's heart," Romano said. "We can now get a feel for what they're really going through in their workouts."

Even though all the players have been medically cleared to participate in workouts, practices and games, Romano said monitoring the players' heart conditions will only enhance their ability to perform at their peak.

"Everyone on our team has already been cleared," Romano said. "But everyone had been cleared that's had this problem. We just want to gather information so we can improve the safety and performance of our athletes."

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