Madden Measure Would Increase Awareness Of Importance Of Cardiac Screening For Student Athletes

TRENTON – A measure sponsored by Senator Fred H. Madden designed to increase awareness among parents and students about sudden cardiac death and its incidence among student athletes was unanimously approved today by the Senate Education Committee.

“This issue of juvenile heart problems in young athletes has received a great deal of attention lately – in fact, The Star-Ledger featured a story about it on the front page of today’s paper,” said Senator Madden, D-Camden and Gloucester. “We want our young athletes to have long, productive lives and by requiring schools to distribute information on the disease warning signs, and making parents aware of the importance of screenings, we would be helping to save lives and investing in the futures of our young people.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics defines cardiac death as a nonviolent occurrence when a seemingly healthy person’s heart stops unexpectedly, with no health warning signs. In children, sudden cardiac death usually occurs as a result of an underlying cardiac condition like hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a genetic condition which causes a thickening of the heart wall. Senator Madden’s bill, S-332, would require the Department of Education to work with the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services and the American Heart Association to create a pamphlet about sudden cardiac death. The pamphlet would contain a clear explanation of sudden cardiac death, statistics of cases among student athletes, warning signs and available screening options. The literature would be distributed to local school districts who would, in turn, send the pamphlets to all parents and guardians whose children participate in interscholastic sports.

Senator Madden said although screening technology exists, it is unable to identify all of the possible cardiovascular conditions that can lead to sudden cardiac death, which is why it is imperative for parents to be aware of possible conditions. Parents should also make sure that they are aware of their family history and take their children for regular sports physicals.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics also said that in student athletes, the majority of these fatalities occur between the hours of 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. – the hours most practices and games occur,” said Senator Madden. “Because most instances in children occur during school activities, it is imperative that parents and school coaches become aware of the conditions that can lead to sudden cardiac death, so that they can help our student athletes lead long, healthy lives.”

This measure now heads to the full Senate for a vote.