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St. Michael’s Echocardiography and Vascular team at the heart of hockey

Toronto, June 11, 2013

By Leslie Shepherd

Photo By Chi-Ming Chow
Photo By Dr. Chi-Ming Chow

When more than 100 of the world’s best young hockey players gather in Toronto each year to see whether they are medically and physically fit to play in the NHL, Dr. Chi-Ming Chow is there to examine them.

Dr. Chow and his team from St. Michael’s Echocardiography and Vascular Lab perform echocardiograms on the aspiring professional hockey players to detect whether they have any heart defects that could prevent them from playing.

The medical and fitness testing event is held annually near Toronto’s Pearson International Airport as part of the NHL Scouting Combine, where the top junior players show off their fitness for scouts from all 30 NHL teams before the draft. This year it was held May 31-June 1 at the International Centre.

About 20 stations are set up around the fitness room, testing everything from strength, power, muscular endurance, aerobic power, anaerobic power and hand-eye coordination. The medical room has stations for vision, detailed medical history, general physical examination, extensive orthopedic evaluation, electrocardiograms and Dr. Chow’s station for echocardiograms.

The event was started more than 20 years ago by Dr. Norman Gledhill, a kinesiology professor at York University. Dr. Chow, director of the Echocardiography and Vascular Lab, said he was invited to participate five years ago by Dr. Kwan Chan at the Ottawa Heart Institute. Each year, Philips has donated the use of the echocardiogram machines for the event.

Dr. Chow said that while cardiac screening with echocardiograms is relatively new for the NHL, St. Michael’s also performs cardiac screening tests for the Canadian National Basketball Team.