Heart screenings increasingly vital for student athletes

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As the PeaceHealth Southwest Heart & Vascular Center and the Quinn Driscoll Foundation prepare to host our fourth “Young Champions” Student Athlete Screening Clinic, recent cases of sudden cardiac arrest weigh heavy on our hearts and minds.

The loss of two young athletes and the near-death of a third student have raised the visibility of sudden cardiac arrest among active teens, and many parents are taking precautionary measures to seek out screening options with the hope of identifying any risk to their own children.

An EKG, or electrocardiogram, along with an echocardiogram would very likely have detected a heart defect in Quinn Driscoll, a 13-year-old student athlete at Wy’ East Middle School who died in 2009 after suffering cardiac arrest while running on the track during gym class.

Quinn had undiagnosed hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a serious heart condition that is the leading cause of sudden cardiac death in young athletes. It is believed to exist in roughly 1 out of 500 individuals, and approximately one case of sudden cardiac death occurs every three days in organized youth sports across the United States.

PeaceHealth Southwest is proud to partner with the Quinn Driscoll Foundation to offer “Young Champions,” an advanced screening program that is designed to spot the most common causes of sudden cardiac arrest in teen athletes. The foundation was started by Quinn’s parents, Scott and Kelly Driscoll, who honor their son’s memory every day by working with parents across the United States who have suffered the loss of a child due to cardiac arrest and who would like to start screening programs in their own communities.

“Young Champions” heart screenings can detect HCM and other heart conditions using an echocardiogram, or ultrasound of the heart, in addition to a comprehensive EKG. This is an incredible opportunity for the kids of Clark County -- very few communities across the United States have been able to establish an advanced screening program like ours, and no other healthcare organization in our area is offering both EKGs and echocardiograms.

These types of screenings are expensive, and there is controversy in the medical field about whether EKGs or echocardiograms should be offered to every teenager who is participating in athletic activities. It’s important to note that “Young Champions” is funded almost entirely by our own community. We would not be able to offer these advanced screenings if not for the multitude of volunteers who provide services or donate materials and equipment to make this happen.

Who is eligible?

Any Clark County middle or high school athlete, band member or cheerleader from 12 to 18 years old is eligible for a “Young Champions” screening. Although designed for the student athlete, this screening event also accommodates all children in the age group who may be at risk. This screening does not take the place of the pre-performance examination requirement for all student athletes who wish to participate in a school sport.

What is included in the screening?

• Review of child’s personal and family health history.

• Blood pressure.

• EKG.

• Echocardiogram.

How do I sign up my child?

Registration is required. The “Young Champions” screening clinic on Saturday, Feb. 25, is currently full, however, weekly screenings are offered at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center for a $50 fee, half of which is donated to the Quinn Driscoll Foundation to support future screening events. To schedule a student heart screening, register online at www.swHeartCheck.org.

Matt Nipper, Ms, RCEP, is an exercise physiologist at PeaceHealth Heart & Vascular Center in Vancouver.