Following the collapse of the Buffalo Bills' Damar Hamlin on Monday Night Football, one nonprofit is urging parents to have their student-athletes screened for heart problems.
“If you have the opportunity to get your child screened, I mean, it’s just imperative,” Danielle Kelley, co-founder of Jump Start Your Heart, a nonprofit that screens student-athletes for heart problems and defects, told WAFB. “The physicals that are required by the High School Association are not, you know they don’t include the cardiovascular component is just basically a physical, so our screenings include the two diagnostic screenings of the electrocardiogram, or the EKG and the other diagnostic tests, the ultrasound of echocardiogram of the heart.”
Kelley and her husband, Dr. Steven Kelley, started Jump Start Your Heart to screen student-athletes for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, or HCM.
“Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a genetic defect where the patient has an abnormally thick heart, and also these patients are prone to have rhythm problems, and so it’s the most common cause of sudden cardiac death in a student-athlete,” said Dr. Kelley.
Kelley said that student-athletes who are diagnosed with HCM may not be able to continue playing their sport.
“Diagnosis and there are a lot of things that must come into play. I mean, I do think it’s risky if you’re playing competitive sports with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy because you never know when the heart rate jumps out of rhythm and leads to certain cardiac death,” explained Dr. Kelley.
While doctors still do not know exactly what caused Hamlin's collapse, Dr. Kelley said that proper screening is imperative.
“If we’re going to have our students competing, let’s have the right equipment in place and the right protocols and the right personnel in place," said Dr. Kelley. "Just in case they’re very instance, the patient or anyone goes down because it truly time is the muscle in cardiology and the longer you go without the heart beating effectively you run the risk of permanent brain damage and all these different things."