DETROIT (WXYZ) - High School athletes suddenly collapsing and dying on the court or on the field; It’s happened dozens of times in Michigan during the last decade.
In Michigan, the only pre-screening for sports that your kids have to have is a physical. The type of physical, the tests that are run, and the questions http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifthat are asked are entirely up to you and your doctor. And that has a lot of physicians and families asking – should more be done to keep your children safe?
CLICK HERE FOR THE 4 PAGE MHSAA PHYSICAL FORM
The game winning shot quickly turned into tragedy. In March, 16-year-old Wes Leonard – star of the Fennville High School basketball team – collapsed on the court, and later died. Doctors said the High School Junior died from cardiac arrest due to an enlarged heart. According to the American Heart Association, the vast majority of sudden deaths in young athletes are due to severe heart deformities that have been present since birth – but usually go undetected.
“Miss her every day, and I think about her every day. It left a big hole in our family,” said Randy Gillary.
Gillary knows all too well the pain of losing a child to cardiac arrest. His 15-year-old daughter, Kimberly, died during a water polo match at Groves High School.
“We basically lost her on the pool deck,” said Gillary.
Gillary believes high school athletes need more screening to detect heart defects and he’s helped push the Michigan High School Athletic Association, or MHSAA, to adopt new, more detailed guidelines for student physicals. Since 1999, 47 students in Michigan have died from cardiac arrest.
“If we would’ve had more effective screening, substantial number of those kids could have been saved,” said Gillary.
The MHSAA is a non-profit organization that runs post-season tournaments for sports at about 1540 Michigan high schools and middle schools. When it comes to pre-screening athletes – the only requirement that the MHSAA has is that students must have a yearly physical. The physical can be done by a doctor, nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant, and there is no standardized medical history form that all students must use.
For decades, the MHSAA offered a simple two-sided card that medical professionals now call “outdated.” It asks about things like polio and scarlet fever – no detailed questions about heart problems or family medical history.
So after more than a year of meetings with health professionals – the MHSAA just created a new, more specific medical history form. It asks about chest pain, irregular heartbeats, fainting, and high cholesterol. Doctors say the dozens of new questions are great – but using the form is still just optional.
15-year-old Rebecca Krause says many of her family members have had heart attacks, so when she needed her physical to join the Track and Field Team for Chippewa Valley High School – Rebecca’s doctor sent her for additional heart screening. Rebecca says using the more detailed medical history form would give her peace of mind.
“It’s a smarter decision to ask more questions, and be aware of what your body limits are. And be able to do the things you love, without worrying about, ‘Oh, am I going to collapse on the field today,’” said Rebecca Krause.
St. John Pediatrician Dr. Marcus DeGraw says the MHSAA should make the new physical forms with additional heart health questions mandatory.
“Having everybody do the exact same questions with the exact same focus during the physical exam would allow you to catch a lot of these kids earlier,” said Dr. DeGraw.
John Johnson is the spokesman for the MHSAA.
“Is this organization doing enough to keep student athletes safe,” asked Catallo.
“There’s only so much you can do with a staff of two dozen people here in Lansing. It’s the schools that make the rules, schools that adopt the rules, schools that take care of the day to day activities of school sports,” said Johnson.
Johnson says districts barely have enough money to keep sports programs going – that’s why they don’t want to burden the schools by dictating what kind of physicals students should have.
“So it’s basically whatever a doctor will sign off on, and whatever a parent will allow their doctor to sign off on for their kid, and then the school to accept that,” said Johnson.
“I have a huge problem that it’s optional. I think it should be mandatory. And I think in a lot of states you’ll see it will become mandatory,” said Dr. Steven Almany.
Dr. Almany is the Chief of Cardiology at Beaumont Hospital. In 2007, Dr. Almany and his collegaues started Beaumont’s Healthy Heart Check Screening Program. Channel 7 has partnered with them to provide free EKG and echocardiogram heart checks for more than 5,000 student athletes. While there is no one test that can catch every heart problem, Dr. Almany says other countries mandate EKG’s and other tests for all athletes.
“About 90% of the issues that might cause sudden death, we can probably pick up with an exam,” said Dr. Almany.
So who pays for the additional heart screening? The schools? Parents? While the debate about that continues -- Randy Gillary says the answer is tragically simple.
“How do you put a value on your son or daughter’s life? I would have paid anything to get our daughter back,” said Gillary.
Doctors tell us that typically, if you don’t have insurance an EKG test can cost anywhere from $30 to $150. If that test picks up a problem, your child may need the more expensive echocardiogram ultrasound of the heart, and that can run more than $400.
Even though the new MHSAA physical form that will soon be sent to schools isn’t mandatory, if parents want an even more detailed questionnaire, they can download a 4 page physical form on the MHSAA website.
Kimberly Gillary’s family started a non-profit organization after her death. The Kimberly Ann Gillary Foundation raises money to donate Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) to every school in Michigan. An AED can help restart a heart after cardiac arrest.
POSTED BY STACIE BATUR, MICHIGAN HEART GROUP