Cardiac screenings urged for safety

05/21/2014 12:10 AM

05/21/2014 12:16 AM

In the continued effort to prevent the premature death of young athletes, Spring Valley High and Richland School District 2 are teaming with Providence Hospital to provide low-cost cardiac screenings at Spring Valley on May 24.

“When Providence offered the chance to be a host school for this program, we felt this was such a great opportunity that we wanted to be a part of it,” Spring Valley athletics trainer Paul Dobyns said.

Carmen Wilson, director of health and wellness programs at Providence, said the hospital has been offering such screenings for three years.

“After seeing several deaths in our community, we worked really hard to find ways to help,” Wilson said.

Over 15 years, the deaths of South Carolina athletes Marcus Warren, Vic Sims, Brandon Butler, Lee Cannon and, in 2012, Ronald Rouse have been attributed to sudden cardiac arrest. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, an abnormal thickening of the heart wall with non-functional muscle tissue, is the leading cause of sudden cardiac arrest in young athletes.

HCM is responsible for 36 percent of deaths in young athletes, and 90 percent of those deaths occurring during an athletic activity.

“Typically, the first symptom you have with HCM is death,” Wilson said. Detectable symptoms, such as fainting, chest pain or shortness of breath during exercise, rapid heart rate, dizziness and fatigue, often do not appear until just before a fatal event. But a noninvasive screening via echocardiogram can detect the disease.

Echocardiogram uses ultrasound technology to measure the force and efficiency of the heart muscle contraction. The test has a low incidence of false-positive.

These exams typically cost more than $1,500. At Spring Valley on Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Providence School of Cardiovascular Diagnostics will perform the screenings for a $50 fee, with no doctor’s order or insurance required.

In talking to parents about the importance of this screening, Dobyns said, “The biggest concern is, unless there is a family history, there are no real precursors to see, if a child has that condition, prior to death.”

“If a parent asks, we tell them, it is an invaluable tool,” he said.

“We don’t want to scare anybody. We want to keep our kids healthy,” Wilson said. Privacy laws prevent Wilson from disclosing whether prior screenings have detected cases of HCM, but he said diagnosing disease is not the program’s sole aim.

“Our gratification comes from being able to give peace of mind. When we are able to look a parent in the eye and let them know their child is safe, that’s a good day for us,” Wilson said.

The screenings will be provided for any South Carolina students or athletes aged 13-26.

Parents and athletes are asked to call (877) 256-5381 to register in advance.

The screenings take about 15 minutes, and Dobyns said the staff is hoping to fill all available time slots and is willing to add time slots if needed.

Another screening event will be offered in the fall at Westwood High.

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