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Heart Attacks in Youth

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Heart Attacks in Youth
Jennifer Velasquez
January 16, 2012
Michelle Clemons

Heart Attacks in Youth Headlines across the country are similar to a headline recently in La Center, Washington: Eighth Grader Collapses During First Day of Basketball Practice. Children collapsing during sporting events are becoming fairly common around the country. According to Caldwell (2011), “Studies show that 175 to 233 deaths occur each year among high school athletes” (para. 3). Most individuals are required by state law to pass a sport physical before him or her can even begin the first day of practice. Many individuals have different opinions as to why children are collapsing with heart issues. Health professionals locally, on state level and nationally are monitoring the findings and are trying to come up with a solution to minimize loss of life. Because so many children participate each year in physical sports, it is important to find out why children are coming up with heart issues and determine how to lower the amount of children from collapsing and prevent premature death.
Functions at Various Government Levels Because children collapsing at sporting events has only recently started to become more common, the three levels of government; National, State, and Local levels have not began working to diligently on a solution. At least if they have, they are not disclosing available resources or much information at this current time. Therefore, locating information is extremely difficult. However, heath foundations such as the Mayo Clinic and the American Heart Association as well as many grassroots groups are conducting surveys among the doctors in an effort to find out what each sports physical consist of and what, if any, family history questions the doctors are asking during the sports physicals. Of the pediatricians and family practice doctors surveyed, “67 percent of them said that they didn’t always ask teens about family history of heart problems, and only a little over half of the doctors were even aware that the guidelines from the American Heart Association even existed” (Caldwell, 2011. Para 3). Hidden heart defects and overlooked heart abnormalities is rare, but there are precautions one can take if at risk. Currently, all levels of government, heart foundations, and heath associations are in debate over the screening of young athletes, how much screening is necessary, and whether or not to incorporate the use of electrocardiograms. However, according to Mayo Clinic (2011), “The use of an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) during sports physicals could give false-positive results”, causing unnecessary testing and panic (P. 3, para 9).
Working Together With many different ideas of why children are collapsing, are the levels of governments really working together at this point? Some groups believe these problems are occurring because of the fat content children consume, instead of a proper diet, or not consuming any fuel during the day before exercise. Langston (2011) states, “a study conducted by the Journal of the American Heart Association found that excessive consumption of sugars as well as soft drinks, has been linked with several metabolic abnormalities and adverse health conditions, higher body weight, and lower intake of essential nutrients” (Langston, 2011. Para 8). The higher fat intake could lead to a great risk of heart disease. “The most common cause of sudden death among individuals 12-32 year olds is Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, and the second most common cause is Cogenital coronary artery anomalies” (Pescasio,M.D., 2012).
Public and Community Health According to, public health is defined as “The approach to medicine that is concerned with the health of the community as a whole. Public health is community health” (Public Health, 2012). Communities are the ones trying to find a solution. Whether it is pushing for the electrocardiograms to be part of a sport physical, or push for AED’s to be placed in all schools, it is individuals and community organizations that are stepping up to ensure safety. Many schools are now launching a program called lifesaving sudden cardiac arrest. Under this program, ‘teachers, nurses, faculty persons, physical-education, health teachers, and all ninth graders undergo CPR/AED training” (Strote, n.d. ). Building Heart-Safe Schools is the goal.
A Solution Under no circumstance, does a parent want to arrive at a sporting event and watch a child collapse. Yet, unfortunately, this is happening more frequently nowadays. Would an AED in all schools help minimize premature death, would a healthier diet be more effective, or would adding electrocardiograms in as part an athlete’s sports physical be the solution to lowering the risk of children collapsing during sporting events? Right now, a solution is uncertain. However, one thing is for certain, the federal, state, and local governments need to work together in finding a solution to eliminating unnecessary premature death among youth.

Caldwell, R. (2011). Teenage athletes with heart problems may be slipping through screenings. Retrieved from athletes-with-heart-problems-may-be-slipping-through-screenings/
Landau, E. (2011). How can teen athlete deaths be prevented?. Retrieved from
Langston, K. (2011). Teen Athlete Deaths are we contributing. Retrieved from
Mayo Clinic. (2011). Sudden death in young people — Heart problems often blamed. Retrieved from
Pescasio,M.D., M. D. (2012). Heart Disease in the Young Athlete. Retrieved from
Public Health. (2012). In Retrieved from
Strote, M. E. (n.d. ). Building a Heart-Safe School. Retrieved from

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