Highland Hospital's Chief of Cardiology, Dr. Chad Teeters, said they've seen increased awareness about these screenings over the last few years as more and more health and sports organizations get on board and more pediatricians recommend their patients take advantage of them.
Because they volunteer their time and Highland volunteers the equipment, the screenings are free. It all just takes 15-20 minutes. Students come in and have their height, weight and blood pressure checked. They'll also have an echocardiogram and an EKG, where doctors will look for the telltale signs of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a thickened portion of the heart muscle.
The condition is the leading cause of sudden death in student athletes. There are typically no symptoms.
"These folks are at the pinnacle of fitness and athletic achievement who die suddenly and have no history before that time," said Dr. Teeters. "The vast majority of these kids, should feel nothing, should have no problems. But if the forces align at the right time they can have a potentially fatal event."
Doctors at Highland say since they began these heart screenings they've looked at more than 500 student athletes. And while they found no one with the exact condition they were screening for, they were able to detect other issues like valve abnormalities or high blood pressure.
"The thing that people fear is, "Are you going to find something that's going to prevent my child form playing sports?' Or, 'Is this going to prevent my scholarship athlete from going to college?' It's a tough discussion but at the same time no one wants their child to die. What we tell everybody is if nothing else than for peace of mind, it's a worthwhile 15 minutes," explained Teeters.
The screenings are set for Saturday August 25th from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Highland Hospital. You must be at least 14 years old and enrolled in middle or high school.
You must call ahead to make an appointment, (585) 784-8821.