Saturday, September 6, 2008

Sudden Death - Young Athletes Dying!

Sean Fisher was only 13 years old; Max Gilpin was 15 years old; Douglas Morales a 17 year old high school student; Ereck Plancher a college freshman. These students have all died as a result of participating in football training. Curious? What's going on here?

  • Who is responsible for this?

  • Are students who are physically cleared appropriately tested?

  • Are we listening to their concerns/complaints?

  • Are they being pushed too far during training?

Students who are athletically inclined look forward to participating in their favorite sport. In fact, they prepare and practice hoping to make the team. However, in order to participate in any form of physical activity, most schools require a clearance from a physician. The fact that the students are cleared for physical activities/sports is no longer a reason to feel confident that they are going to be safe while playing their sport.

Keep in mind that your child may feel strongly about being a part of the team, the school pride/spirit, the coaches, trainers, teammates as well as some parents are enthusiastically counting on them to perform. Therefore, they may not be forth coming with any complaints/health concerns. They want to make their school, parents, friends, team mates, classmates - all proud of their ability to play the game.

As the coaches/trainers prepare the team to play the game, they focus on intense drilling. The goal of the coach/trainer is to build endurance mentally and physically. Students may experience shortness of breathing, exhaustion, dizziness and other signs of fatigue – but the coaches/trainers often ignore the complaints as they are focused on building endurance and physical stamina – perhaps it is more in the form of thinking mind over matter – work through the challenges because you most likely wont be able to stop for a drink of water/Gatorade/etc. during an actual game.

There are some things that parents can do:

  • Have your child thoroughly tested - including an EKG that may be able to detect any heart abnormalities during physical activities. If you feel uncertain, go ahead and ask for a stress test/heart ultrasound.

  • Tell your doctors as much information as you can about your family history (has anyone had a sudden cardiac arrest at a young/early age?)

  • Talk to your child - ask him/her about their physical response during activities? Be specific in asking if they have experienced any shortness of breath, chest pains, feeling faint or weak?

  • Do not take anything for granted - a heart murmur is serious.

  • Speak to your school's coach, ask him/her if they have the necessary equipment to assist the students in the event someone collapses on the field/during practice? Have they received the training to operate the equipment?

While the physicians may not be too keen on the idea of the thorough physical testing, keep in mind that this is your child. If your car broke down, you would take it to the mechanic and have it repaired or you may even decide to purchase a new one. On the other hand, if your child collapses, you may not be able to have him/her fixed and there is definitely no replacement for the loss. If the physician is unable to perform the tests due to insurance restrictions then by all means pay for it yourself. You may find that it is actually affordable or perhaps you can ask your physician to work out a payment plan. It's less than the cost of a funeral and the lifelong emotional pain that may cost you in therapy fees.

In getting a thorough examination and in support of your child's team, you have done your best. Now it's time to cheer them on - Go team go!