One of the leading causes of death among high school-aged student-athletes is sudden cardiac arrest, a condition involving the abrupt loss of heart function, breathing and consciousness.
According to the York Daily Record, a new law under consideration in Pennsylvania aims to inform both student-athletes and their parents about steps they can take to test for irregularities that might put them at risk for SCA, and potentially save lives.
State Sen. Mike Regan proposed the legislation, which would have the effect of amending a 2012 law called the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Prevention Act. Regan’s proposal calls for school districts to provide information on electrocardiogram (EKG) testing, and give student-athletes the option of requesting an EKG on top of the standard pre-participation physical examination. Importantly, the legislation would not mandate EKG testing.
“While ultimately, an EKG test for every student-athlete would be ideal, I recognize that such a mandate is not feasible,” Regan wrote in his co-sponsorship memorandum on the legislation.
The bill, dubbed Peyton’s Law in honor of Peyton Walker, who died from sudden cardiac arrest in 2013, was formally introduced with a letter of support from Regan this summer. A news conference rallying the bill’s supporters, which include the Peyton Walker Foundation, an organization set up by Peyton’s mother Julie in the wake of her death, is scheduled to take place next week.
“(This bill) is a vital step in our journey to save more young lives,” Julie Walker said in a statement. “We know that information is power and if parents and guardians are alerted to the fact that baseline heart screenings can detect their child’s potential risks for SCA, we believe schools should be required to present that life-saving information to families.”
While EKGs can be effective as a means of detecting undiagnosed heart conditions, they can be costly to administer and don’t always present clear results. The Daily Record reports that this can lead to more testing, and can ultimately have the effect of keeping a healthy athlete from competition.
“The issue is you are trying to catch a rare entity across a population that is typically the healthiest,” Dr. Pete Barclay, a local cardiologist, told the Daily Record.