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Child Athletes Getting Screened For Heart Health as New Pa. Law Kicks In

By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – You seldom hear about perfectly healthy teenagers going in to get their tickers checked, "just in case."

So it was an unusual sight at Upper Dublin High School on Sunday, as hundreds of student athletes showed up for EKGs.

It was part of a growing effort to prevent sudden cardiac arrest in children (see related story).

Trevor Hodkinson admitted to being nervous, as technician Dave got him ready for his EKG.  Trevor is a healthy ten-year-old with no reason to suspect his heart might be weak.

But that's the point.

"We find almost one in 100 with something that very good pediatricians had not previously been able to identify from the history or the physical exam," says Dr. Victoria Vetter of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

She reviewed every EKG -- some 350 in all -- for abnormalities.

The screening was a community service project organized with the help of Simon's Fund, a nonprofit organization dedicated to child heart health and the driving force behind Pennsylvania's new "Sudden Cardiac Prevention Act," which requires coaches to learn the signs of potential problems.

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(Representative Mike Reverb and his sons. Credit: Pat Loeb)

The bill's sponsor, Pa. state representative Mike Vereb (right), brought his own two sons.

"How can I possibly expect other parents to get their kids screened and be aware if I don't have my own kids screened?" he said.

And Vereb says he is glad he did.   "When you have an expert like Dr. Vetter tell you your child's heart's okay, it makes it a brighter Sunday."

The "Sudden Cardiac Prevention Act" was passed and signed into law in May.   Beginning with this school year, any student participating in sports must first turn in a form signed by the student and his or her parents, acknowledging that they have reviewed the warning signs of sudden cardiac arrest.

Coaches and athletic directors must be trained to recognize the symptoms, and any student exhibiting signs of them must be removed from practice or games until they've been cleared by a medical professional.

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