Heart screenings could save the lives of athletes

By Brandi Hodges - bio | email

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - A group of doctors in Jonesboro is working to identify problems with kids before something bad happens.  This past spring 800 high school students in Region 8 from 9th to 12th grade were tested with hopes of testing more next year.

"If we can find out cardiology problems before they present themselves in an emergency, that's our goal," said Dr. F Roosevelt Gilliam III.

Dr. Gilliam is a cardiac electrophysiologist.  He and other doctors at HMG are working to protect young people on and off the playing field.

"This level of screening is something that's critical to allowing our young men and women to participate in athletics and do so with the highest level of safety," said Dr. Gilliam.

Dr. Gilliam said the goal of screening athletes is to make sure no athlete ever has a cardiac problem while playing their sport, but it does happen.

"Every three days a secondary athlete, a man or woman in high school or college level, suddenly dies while participating," said Dr. Gilliam.

Even when no problem is found, doing screenings like an ECG or electrocardiogram helps make people more aware.

Dr. Gilliam would like to see the program go nationwide but says that comes down to how to pay for it.  In Jonesboro the screenings are free for athletes when they're offered.

"The more important cost is the cost of one life saved when it's a young man or woman in our community," said Gilliam.

The heart screening includes a physical along with the ECG.

Dr. Gilliam said he hopes doing these screenings on young people will be good for their health and for the health of their parents.  Kids can get screened themselves and then go home and encourage their parents to be heart healthy too.

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