Texas lawmakers are looking to bring new safety requirements to student athletes. Representative Sylvester Turner filed House Bill 677 on January 13, 2015. It would mean each athlete would need a mandatory electrocardiogram before participating in sports.
It's all in a fight to stop Sudden Cardiac Death in students who may not know they have a heart problem. Although very rare, some students may be susceptible to Sudden Cardiac Arrest. And those advocating for change say a required EKG would be able to catch abnormalities, and heart conditions before they become life threatening.
“I think it's a good thing,” said Tom Lewis, Athletic Trainer at Graham ISD. “I think it's like the AED they've done several years ago. It's nothing but advancement, It gives us a better tool,” said Lewis.
Athletes would be required to have an EKG done, along with their physicals, one time before the first and third year of athletic participation. Many say the death of one Texas athlete sparked the heart monitoring movement.
“The Cody Stephens kid that died from Crosby. He made it through his senior year and went and laid down to take a nap in a chair and didn't wake up,” said Lewis.
The death of Stephens sparked the Cody Stephens foundation. The organization is dedicated to bringing EKG's to each student athlete.
And although Lewis said he's never seen this type of tragedy occur in Graham, it doesn't mean it won't. The EKG's might help do the job, according to Lewis.
Studies show physicals are only one percent effective, but adding an EKG catches up to 89 percent of heart issues, according to the Cypress ECG Project.
“It's that one kid that you find, and I know I don't mind it. I think my doctors won't mind it,” said Lewis.
But although the EKG is designed to help athletes, one Cardiologist said it may not be the answer.
“One problem with the EKG being mandatory is that it's going to detect lots of abnormalities which are not really present in the person,” said Doctor Bruce Palmer with the Wichita Heart and Vascular Center.
Not only will families be forced to pay for more advanced tests to get their child back in the game, according to Palmer. It could also take a large number of students out of the game for problems the athlete may not even have, Palmer said.
“So until we have the ability to do more accurate testing currently the American College of Cardiology has discouraged mandatory EKGs prior to participation,” said Palmer.
Right now students are still required to take a physical before the first and third year of participation in sports. And this upcoming year, a couple questions have been added to the physical form. Those questions are more in-depth and directed at athlete heart issues, according to Lewis.
The bill would allow some exemptions for financial or religious reasons. If the bill passes, those mandatory EKGs would start as soon as the 2015/2016 school year.