May 6, 2015Heart Screens Debated in Texas
Texas is on the forefront of a battle over mandatory electrocardiogram (EKG) heart screens, as lawmakers are pushing for mandatory testing for high school athletes. The Texas House passed a measure in April requiring public school student-athletes be tested before their first and third years of competition. According to Texas officials, from 2005 through 2014, nine public middle school and high school student-athletes died of cardiac arrest during a game or practice, out of nearly 14 million participants.
Proponents of the measure believe other states will follow Texas’ lead if it becomes law. They claim that the tests could uncover hundreds of at-risk athletes, and that non-profits across the country offer schools free or low-cost EKGs. But as reported by ABC News, mandatory screening detractors, such as the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association, say that testing could result in as many as 32,000 false positives in Texas, and those athletes would be subject to costly follow-up tests. There are also concerns about the qualifications of those who would review the tests, as the state has just 225 pediatric cardiology specialists.
But for those behind the push, the cost of testing doesn’t outweigh the potential to save a life. Scott Stephens, whose son Cody died from an enlarged heart, runs a foundation that awards grants to pay for the screenings and feels the benefits outweigh the costs.
“Kids are dying. Why not screen everybody?” he said. “This is bigger than would it have helped my son. … What I can do is keep parents from knowing the pain my wife and I know.”