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TO PREVENT ATHLETES’ DEATHS: Stephens asks U.I.L. to require E.C.G. tests

CROSBY – Scott Stephens asked the University Interscholastic League Legislative Council (U.I.L.L.C.) on Oct. 19 to require Electrocardiograms (E.C.G.) for high school football players and that they be read by cardiologists because if that had been the rule, his son, Cody, would be alive today.

It was on Cody Stephens’ birthday that Scott made his speech to the board that assists in governing issues for the U.I.L. It is the U.I.L. that requires physicals for athletes today but the system is based upon a 1950’s model of medicine, Stephens makes the case that medicine has progressed over the past 50 years.

If you know Scott, you know he can make a case but to know that the tests can be administered for as low as $15 and that already this year, a Huffman student says the test saved his life, and following surgery, that student, Chris Aguilar has returned to the football field, then the case against performing a heart screening seems weak.

One of the great things about men of character is if you ask them what the other side is they will tell you. Because they know both sides going into the argument. Scott says that the U.I.L. Medical Committee may be asking for more study of the situation because of the possibility of false positives keeping a potentially great athlete from playing a season.

During his address Stephens said, “The U.I.L. website says the risk of sudden cardiac death is only 1 in 300,000. But the real number is 1 in 88,000 students. The Cypress ECG Project will tell you from their own 9-year history that 1 child in 8500 has required corrective heart surgery. Studies have shown that the risk for sudden cardiac death in athletes is 2.5 times greater than the general population and boys are 5 times more likely to die than girls. The Texas Heart Institute told me this week that we are a pace to lose 50 students between the ages of 12 through 18 in Texas this year.

Compare that with 1 heat related death in their 25 years.”

Stephens would also tell the U.I.L. Council, “The current school physicals catch about 1% of heart issues. Adding screenings can improve that to 98%.

After screenings about 4.5 percent of students are recommended for follow-up with a cardiologist. If each of you has 2 kids then by the stats 3 of them may need their heart looked at closely. Is it your child? Mine was one in 88,000.

My son, Cody Stephens, who would have been 19 today, wouldn’t be a U.I.L. statistic. He was in the spring of his senior year awaiting his graduation when on May 6, 2012 when he came home on a Sunday afternoon and said ‘Dad I’m tired. I’m going to take a nap.’ He never woke up; he died from an enlarged heart.”

But the statistics don’t end with that refutation of the 1 in 88,000 students statistics, according to Stephens, “but if you are an athlete, you are two and a half times greater to have the enlarged heart, so now you are down to one in 35,000. And if you are a male athlete you are seven times more likely to have the condition so now you are down to one in 7,000. And then if you are a male basketball player it gets down to like one in 3,000.”

“Well, the good news is that local school district are getting behind this and they are going to be doing the tests and hopefully the state gets behind it. If the state doesn’t then I’m just going to just work it from the grass roots. We have got 1073 school districts in Texas and they all need to hear this and make the right decision.”

During a rather lengthy question and answer session Stephens stated “Cody had an E.C.G. in the 7th grade, it was read by the family doctor and the family doctor passed him. It was not read by a cardiologist, I had that same E.C.G read by a cardiologist this week and he told me that he would have kicked it for H.C.M., what Cody died of.”

The question is open why does the U.I.L. need to mandate this low cost and quick test.

“Huffman ISD made the decision to do E.C.G.s 2 years ago during their physicals exams. The school nurse was catching a little heat from some parents that this wasn’t necessary. After all, it wasn’t required by the U.I.L.. She called the school nurse, in neighboring Crosby to do it also. Stating, if we both do this potentially life saving test maybe the heat will be less. The school nurse in Crosby agreed, but for whatever reason, Crosby didn’t chose to follow through. So my son, who desperately needed the tests, didn’t even know it was an option or available.

The Star-Courier will continue to follow the developments of this investigation as to what if any actions will be taken by school districts and the State of Texas regarding heart monitoring.