TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Fred H. Madden that would require all physical examinations of children under the age of 19 to include questions evaluating the child’s cardiovascular disease risk was approved by the Assembly today.
The legislation is part of a series of bills sponsored by Madden that aims to reduce the number of sudden cardiac deaths suffered by children. Approximately 2,000 apparently healthy children die suddenly from cardiac conditions each year in the United States. While some cardiac conditions have no identifiable inheritable pattern, other cardiac conditions may be identified through a thorough evaluation of a child, along with his or her family history.
“Identifying cardiac problems in young people means we must extend evaluations for not only student athletes but also children who are not playing sports,” said Madden (D-Gloucester, Camden). “Just like their athletic peers, children who are not active in sports can be susceptible to heart conditions that cause sudden death. By recognizing this fact, we can ensure students who are not involved in athletic activities get the same level of scrutiny for cardiac risk as those who are on the field or the court.”
The bill, S-471, would require that all annual medical examinations of children under the age of 19 include questions contained in the “Preparticipation Physical Evaluation” form, which was developed jointly by the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Sports Medicine, the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine, and the American Osteopathic Academy of Sports Medicine.
The “Preparticipation Physical Examination” form is currently used to evaluate a student’s cardiac well-being in advance of any participation in scholastic athletics. The bill would require that all physical examinations performed on children include these stringent questions about cardiac health, not only those that are required prior to participating in interscholastic or intramural sports.
Under the legislation, a physician, advanced practice nurse, or physician assistant who performs these examinations would have to complete a cardiac screening professional development module to increase the assessment skills of those health care practitioners who perform annual physical examinations of children.
“When it comes to the health of our children, we cannot take any risks,” said Madden. “Every opportunity counts if we can detect potential cardiac problems early on. By expanding cardiac screenings to all children during a physical exam, we will expand the chances of detecting a potential problem and potentially save lives.”
Madden has been the leading legislative advocate for measures to promote cardiac health among children and student athletes in New Jersey. He authored the law that established the “New Jersey Student Athlete Cardiac Screening Task Force” to find the best ways to increase awareness of the threat to young people and prevent the sudden and tragic deaths of those at risk. Following through on recommendations of the task force, Madden authored a package of bills that were signed into law. The laws included the “Children’s Sudden Cardiac Events Reporting Act,” which requires the reporting of children’s sudden cardiac events and established a statewide database to keep track of the information. Madden also sponsored the “Scholastic Student Athlete Safety Act,” which established advanced cardiac screening methods for student athletes in grades six to 12 who participate in interscholastic or intramural sports.
S-471 passed the Assembly today by a vote of 57-13-1 and now heads to the Senate for final approval.