Heart to Heart: Saving student athletes at risk

Heart to Heart: Saving student athletes at risk.
Heart to Heart: Saving student athletes at risk.(Ivanhoe Newswire)
Published: Jun. 22, 2022 at 10:56 AM CDT
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ORLANDO, Fla. (IVANHOE NEWSWIRE) - There are about 8 million high school students participating in organized sports in the United States. Most student-athletes are required to have a sports physical to show they are healthy enough to play. But a critical screening that is not included in the physical can be the difference between life and death for some athletes with serious undetected health issues.

For 15-year-old Rafe Maccarone, soccer is everything. Nothing slowed down this leading scorer, but one day at soccer practice “He started to lag at the back of the pack and that was unusual for sure for Rafe,” detailed his teammate, Evan Ernst.

He collapsed and went into sudden cardiac arrest. With all efforts, he was unable to be revived.

“It made absolutely no sense to a bunch of teenagers, and it still doesn’t,” Ernst said.

But Maccarone’s story is not alone. Sudden cardiac arrest is the leading cause of death for young athletes.

“One in 300 will carry a form of cardiovascular disease that predisposes them to have a risk of sudden cardiac arrest,” explained Gul Dadlani, MD, Chief of Pediatric Cardiology at Nemours Children’s Hospital.

That’s why Ernst and doctors have pushed to require EKG screenings for student-athletes.

Dr. Dadlani said, “An EKG enhances detection of forms of cardiovascular disease that can cause sudden cardiac arrests, such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, long QT, Wolff-Parkinson-White, and other arrhythmias.”

Through the organization Who We Play For, EKG screenings are provided at no to low cost for student-athletes. An abnormal EKG screening led Marianne Hendrix to find out her son Xavier had Wolff-Parkinson-White, a condition that causes a rapid heartbeat and increases the risk for sudden cardiac arrest.

Marianne shared, “He said your son is a ticking time bomb.”

But with the discovery of the heart condition, Xavier has switched their focus from football to medicine.

“His desire is to be a pediatric cardiologist,” exclaimed Marianne. So Xavier can save lives and give back to those who saved him.

Dr. Dadlani said that an EKG can’t detect all heart conditions that may lead to sudden cardiac arrest, but it will detect a majority of them. Who We Play For travels the country providing EKG screenings for as little as $20 and their efforts have gotten some counties in Florida to require EKG screenings for student-athletes.

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