From: Rick Hammel
Date: Aug. 16, 2013
Subject: Proposal to provide Heart Screenings for Young Athletes
Every year dozens of healthy young athletes die on the court or on the playing field. A main cause of these deaths is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. HCM is characterized my an abnormal thickening of the heart muscle and can lead to life threatening arrhythmia. In fact, HCM is the number one cause of sudden cardiac arrest in young people. “This condition affects 1 in 500 people.” (PlaySmart) Kids dying from HCM often have no symptoms and death usually occurs after some type of physical activity. There is also a push, to get Automated External Defibrillators (AED) on site at youth sporting events, but it wouldn’t be better to save a life before a cardiac episode then trying to revive a person after it happens?
One way to avoid these meaningless losses is to get heart screenings. A simple method of this process is an electrocardiogram (EKG). Athlete screenings with an EKG are mandated in some countries like Italy and Israel. It is even a state law in Texas, that requires heart screenings including an EKG on all student-athletes. There is a service provided in the Portland Area through Providence Heart and Vascular Institute called the PlaySmart program, which provides free services to determine any type of heart defect. We need a similar package here in the central Willamette Valley.
By spreading HCM education and awareness throughout our community, we can save a life. If local sports associations and parents work with Samaritan Health, I am sure we can get free or discounted heart screenings for our local young competitors. Even saving one child is worth the time and effort this endeavor will take.
The cost for getting screenings performed is the largest hurdle. By getting SamHealth to donate the equipment and finding a cardiologist to donate his time, the cost will be reduced dramatically. We can organize fundraisers to help pay for the supplies and promotions of the event, once the free heart screening experience is planned. It can be as simple as a medical van present at sign-ups for these sports.
We need to spread the word; “Be Smart, EKG Your Heart.” Since sports physicals are required by the youth sports associations, then we need to include a heart screening as part of that process. If they rely on the parents to get the child’s physical prior to playing, then we need to inform them to ask their doctor about getting screened. We need to get the local hospital to recognize this problem and offer solutions to parents and to these young athletes. Groups and organizations across the country are promoting similar events to the PlaySmart program. Albany should also have such a system in place and active.
All kids playing in little league baseball or Pop Warner football must get sports physicals. Although anyone signing up in the Albany Boys and Girls Club are not required to get any kind of physical, it is a good idea. Usually these examinations are brief and sometimes not even performed by doctors. If the parents can afford a sports physical with their family doctor or pediatrician, they need to be educated to ask for an EKG since that is not currently part of the process.
People will argue that other problems are more serious than getting EKG’s before the season begins. Some will say concerns about getting concussions or suffering from heatstroke is more dangerous than cardiovascular sudden deaths. Certainly the amounts of lumps on the head are greater than the number of kids dying, but with the research and money spent on those other factors, it only makes sense to make sure the athletes are healthy to start with.
By discussing how PlaySmart got started with the folks in Portland at Providence, we can get valuable information on how to get the process going