Updated Screening Measures Would Help Identify At-Risk Students
TRENTON – Acting to help prevent sudden cardiac deaths among student athletes, the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee on Monday approved legislation authored by Senator Fred Madden (D – Gloucester, Camden) that would establish advanced screening measures to identify at-risk students. The “Scholastic Student Athlete Safety Act,” (S-1912), would require medical exams for students in grades six to 12 who participate in interscholastic or intramural sports to be screened for heart conditions that could cause sudden death.
“Heart conditions among young athletes can be hidden killers that cause sudden deaths,” said Senator Madden. “Updated screening measures can save lives by indentifying heart conditions before students engage in the types of physical activities that can trigger cardiac failure.”
The bill would require students in public and private schools to be examined for heart conditions that cause sudden cardiac deaths. The exam would include a Pre-participation Physical Evaluation Form, developed by the six major American medical societies. The bill also calls for the Department of Education to create a training program for doctors and other health professionals who perform the student evaluations to keep them updated on the best ways to identify at-risk athletes.
Senator Madden has been the leading legislative advocate for measures to protect the health and safety of student athletes in New Jersey. He helped create the “New Jersey Student Athlete Cardiac Screening Task Force” to find the best ways to increase awareness of the threat to young people and to identify ways to prevent the sudden and tragic deaths of those at risk.
Following through on recommendations of the task force, Senator Madden authored a package of bills that incudes the “Children’s Sudden Cardiac Events Reporting Act,” which would require the reporting of children’s sudden cardiac events and establish a statewide database to keep track of the information, and a measure that would require certain health insurers, such as health, hospital and medical service corporations, to provide coverage for an annual physical exam to determine if a student is able to participate in athletic or camp activities.
Most fatalities in adolescent athletes are caused by underlying congenital cardiac anomalies, primarily hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, according to medical experts. The American Heart Association recommends the use of physical exams, a review of personal and family history and greater awareness as the best screening techniques.