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5 Ways to Protect Teen Athletes from Sudden Cardiac Death

By Admin on March 15, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Sudden cardiac death has become a growing concern regarding teen athletes. The tragic case of Wes Leonard in Michigan once again brought the issue to the surface. Leonard was 16 when he died of cardiac arrest during a basketball game last week. After an autopsy, it was discovered that he had an enlarged heart. 

While cardiac arrest cannot be prevented entirely, here are five ways that you can help protect teens:

  1. Know the Warning Signs. If your child has fainted, experienced a racing heart, or had shortness of breath while exercising, you should take precautions. Although “Most of the time [they faint] because they’re dehydrated or have low blood pressure, but it could be due to a heart condition."
  2. Have a defibrillator on hand at athletic competitions. Automated external defibrillator (AED) are portable devices that can be used to revive a person that is having a cardiac arrest. 
  3. Extensively screen athletes ahead of time. "A more complete physical and more attention to details certainly is indicated, and I think that this is highlighted unfortunately by when we see the catastrophic events, such as the last two weeks,"  Dr. Roosevelt Gilliam, cardiologist at Healthcare Medical Group in Jonesboro, Arkansas, said, CNN reports.
  4. Use the American American Heart Association 12 step guide for pre-participation screening. The guide outlines the detailed history that should be collected from each athlete, such as whether anyone in the family has died unexpectedly under the age of 50, and whether he or she has a heart murmur, reports. "Is every kid getting the 12-point American Heart Association-recommended screening, and are they getting it by the right kind of person? Let's start with that," said Dr. Martin Maron, a cardiologist at Tufts Medical Center in Boston and an expert on conditions that cause sudden death in athletes.
  5. Get a Sports Physical and Take it Seriously. Carefully consider each question carefully in light of your family history, after countless sudden cardiac deaths like Wes Leonard's, it's worth it. Lisa Salberg, president of the Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Association (HCMA), suggests the Pediatric and Young Adult Sudden Cardiac Risk Assessment Form . If you answer yes to any of the questions on the form Salberg recommends requesting an EKG.

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