Sunday, August 05, 2001

Heart problems worry schools

Precautions being taken on field

By Emily Biuso
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        When thousands of Ohio high school athletes take to fields Monday for the first official day of football practice, many will have completed an expanded health form designed in part to prevent deaths from undetected heart conditions.

        While some doctors, trainers and advocates say they applaud the new form, they say more can be done:

        • Ohio high school athletes should be required to use the new physical form.

        • Automatic External Defibrillators, or AEDs, should be present at athletic competitions.

[photo] Dr. Andrew Berson examines 12-year-old Stephen Caudil Saturday at the TriHealth Sports Clinic in Evendale.
(Yuli Wu photo)
| ZOOM |
        Dr. Timothy Kremchek, Cincinnati Reds medical director and director of sports medicine for the TriHealth System , said the state's high school athletes should have to complete a common form just as professional athletes do.

        “There's got to be some uniformity with the examinations, or kids are going to skirt through the system,” said Dr. Kremchek.

        The Ohio High School Athletic Association does not require schools to use their form.

        Most schools use the recommended form, but the only requirement is that students have a physical, said John Dickerson, an OHSAA assistant commissioner.

        Dr. Kremchek is on an OHSAA committee to consider further improvements to the form.

        The medical history section should be more extensive, with more room for athletes to explain any answers instead of just checking “yes” or “no,” Dr. Kremchek said.

        If an athlete's family has a history of heart problems, “then you spend that extra ten minutes and really look at their heart,” he said.

OHSAA exam form upgraded
        In April, the Ohio High School Athletic Association expanded its recommended preparticipation physical form to include a more extensive family history questionnaire.

        The change came after three Ohio high school football players died on the field last season because of undetected heart problems.

        . The new OHSAA form asks students about high blood pressure, chest pain, heart murmurs and family history of heart problems, among other things.

        Linette Derminer of Geneva believes her son, Ken, would not have died during football practice last June if he had been required to complete a medical history form.

        Had Ken, 17, been asked about dizziness, chest pains and family history, the warning signs of his condition, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, would have been evident, Mrs. Derminer said.

        “He would have been one of those that the physical caught,” said Mrs. Derminer.

        After her son's death, Mrs. Derminer formed the Kids Endangered Now (KEN) Heart Foundation, an organization devoted to educating schools, athletes and parents about sudden cardiac death.

Local schools buy AEDs
        Mrs. Derminer lobbied the OHSAA to recommend that AEDs be present at high school athletic events.

        “We don't really have a position on defibrillators,” Mr. Dickerson of the OHSAA said.

        Mrs. Derminer said that the OHSAA is waiting to learn how AEDs are working in schools, and schools are waiting for recommendations from the OHSAA.

        “We're in a catch-22 situation here,” she said.

        A defibrillator shocks a heart that has gone into sudden cardiac arrest. AEDs are being purchased by athletic departments because time is an important factor in saving the life of a cardiac arrest patient.

        “It really is a no-brainer for a high school to have a defibrillator at their sporting events,” said Dr. Timothy Knilans, a pediatric cardiologist at Children's Hospital Medical Center. “If you get your first shock after 10 minutes, the survival statistics are pretty dismal.”

        Some local schools have pioneered the effort to bring AEDs onto their courts and fields.

        Moeller High School purchased an AED after the cardiac-related death of a faculty member last year.

        The Sycamore Township school system has five AEDs, said Perry Denehy, head athletic trainer for Sycamore High School. He said one is not enough for a large student body.

        “It's like having a large building with only one fire extinguisher,” he said. “It doesn't do much good if you have a unit and it's locked up in an office.”

        Mr. Denehy said that at about $3,000, an AED might seem like a pricey item for a school.

        But, he said, “If you match it with the cost of saving a life, it's not too much of an argument.”

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