Free heart screenings offered for C.O. HS athletes

Football player's death in La Pine prompted checks

POSTED: 8:03 PM PST November 12, 2013 
Hospital offers free heart screenings for athletes image
BEND, Ore. -

Young athletes risk getting injured every time they take the field, but many actually put their lives in danger when they compete with a medical condition doctors can't find in a routine sports physical.

It's a medical condition a heart screen can find almost immediately. Wednesday evening in Bend, local athletes can get that screening and some piece of mind -- for free.

“In a regular physical, we don't pick up some of the cardiac abnormalities that show up, so I think it's great,” Mountain View Athletic Director Dave Hood said Tuesday.

A study by the American Academy of Pediatrics estimates 2,000 people under the age of 25 die from sudden cardiac arrest in the U.S. every year. Some of those deaths happen on high school soccer fields, basketball courts and baseball diamonds.

The heart screenings check for conditions that could lead to sudden death.

Karen Doolan, director of cardiovascular services at St. Charles-Bend, said they started doing the screenings more than a decade ago, after a player died on a football field in La Pine.

“Even finding one and saving one life, it's worth all the screenings we've done over the years,” Doolan said, “It's been impactful.”

At Mountain View, Hood said the athletic department notifies parents about the screenings, and several of them have taken advantage of the opportunity.

“The more screening that we can do, the better to prevent problems with kids,” Hood said, “If we can pick something up in a screening, that's awesome.”

Because the conditions can't be detected without a screening, Doolan highly recommends all athletes get them. Several years ago, they discovered an aortic aneurysm in a swimmer, who could have died in the pool.

Since she got screened, she got the surgery she needed, and is now swimming at the college level.

“We really want this to reach everybody, and everyone in our Central and Eastern Oregon communities are welcome to bring their students in for the screening,” Doolan said, “They just need to call and register so we know they're coming and we can be ready for them.”

Here's the details:

Central Oregon high school students have the opportunity to receive a free heart screening for life-threatening heart defects on Nov. 13 as part of an initiative by the Children’s Heart Fund, a program of the St. Charles Foundation.

Up to 120 student athletes in grades nine through 12 will receive an electrocardiogram, or EKG, which checks for problems with the heart’s electrical activity; an echocardiogram, or ECHO, which uses sound waves to create a moving picture of the heart, and a blood pressure check.

The screenings, which will be held at the St. Charles Heart and Lung Center at 2500 NE Neff Road between 5 and 8 p.m., will help detect five conditions:

To register, call 541.706.2787.

The Children’s Heart Fund hopes to provide 1,000 heart screenings to Central Oregon high school athletes throughout the next year. The next heart screenings are scheduled for Feb. 12 and May 14.

The program is funded entirely through donations to the Children’s Heart Fund.