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Best Life: Saving student-athletes at risk

Published: May. 31, 2022 at 7:58 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 sport’s 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,” said 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,” said Ernst.

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.

“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,” said Dadlani.

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.

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

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

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

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.

Contributors to this news report include: Milvionne Chery, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor and VideographerCopyright 2022 WMC. All rights reserved.

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