Heart Screening at Final Four

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Atlanta – (February 11, 2013) – Less than an hour from the Georgia Dome, the day before the NCAA Championship Game, over 300 students will be screened for potentially fatal heart conditions that cause sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) and death, the #1 killer of student athletes. Demand for the screening was so high in this community, which has lost two student basketball players and a high school coach to SCA in the last 18 months, that two hours after registration opened, the event filled up – there are now over 300 people on a waiting list.

About the Screening

When: Sunday, April 7, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Where: The Cardiovascular Group, 755 Walther Road, Lawrenceville, GA

Saving Lives to Honor Fallen Children

The heart screening is sponsored by Simon’s Fund, a Philadelphia based organization that has screened 5,500 students; 49 have discovered heart conditions. The John Stewart Foundation, based in Indiana, will be participating in the screening as well. John was a high school basketball standout who died of SCA during a March Madness basketball tournament in 1999, just days after being recruited by Tubby Smith for the University of Kentucky Wildcats. At 7’2”, John Stewart was most certainly on a road to the Final Four.

Last year, in a suburb of Atlanta, Buford High School junior, Adam Smith, and Buford Junior High School student, Jeremy Nelson, died from SCA. They were both basketball standouts. Both may have been on the road to the Final Four.

SCA ended their journeys, as well as the journeys of two thousand other students who died last year from SCA, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

SCA is the #1 medical cause of death in the NCAA. Recently, Utah State’s Danny Berger collapsed from an undetected heart condition, and Utah’s Star Lotulelei was diagnosed with a heart condition at the NFL Combine.

Speaking Up to Prevent a Silent Killer

Sudden cardiac arrest is an often-silent killer, whose symptoms – shortness of breath and fainting to name a few – are easily confused by students, parents and coaches with signs of dehydration or exhaustion. An ECG exam can detect up to 80 percent of the conditions that cause sudden cardiac arrest. An ECG exam, coupled with a physical and medical history, is the most effective way to prevent sudden cardiac death in student athletes according to a study in the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (2012).

“As coaches, we spend so much time preparing our players, because we don’t we don’t to lose a game. We need to focus on sudden cardiac arrest, because losing a student athlete is much worse,” said Phil Martelli, men’s basketball coach of the St. Joseph’s University Hawks and first vice president of the National Association of Basketball coaches, which is meeting in Atlanta during the Final Four.

Our 1 Percent: 1 in 100 Students Has Undetected Heart Condition

At the screening, every student will complete a medical history, have vital signs checked, and receive an ECG – a painless, non-invasive test that takes a couple of minutes. Cardiologists from The Cardiovascular Group, Children’s Cardiovascular Medicine and Pediatric Cardiology Services will review all of the information and determine whether the students need to get an echocardiogram, also available at the screening.

Darren and Phyllis Sudman founded Simon’s Fund in 2005 after their seemingly healthy 14-week old son, Simon, died from sudden cardiac arrest during his nap. One in every 100 children screened by Simon’s Fund and its brethren organizations nationwide is found to have a heart condition. These are the same conditions diagnosed regularly in pro basketball players, during their mandated heart screenings.

“At birth, we screen our children for rare genetic conditions. In elementary school, we screen their eyes and ears. How is it that we ignore their hearts, the most important organ in their bodies, when we know that thousands die every year,” says Darren Sudman, Executive Director of Simon’s Fund and Simon’s dad.

About Simon’s Fund

In addition to providing heart screenings, Simon’s Fund advocates for legislation to protect student athletes from sudden cardiac arrest. The organization is behind the first such legislation in the country, Pennsylvania’s Sudden Cardiac Arrest Prevention Act. Since its passage in May of last year, Simon’s Fund has worked with five more states to introduce similar legislation, including Indiana, home of the NCAA.