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Scott and wife Melody Stephens stand outside the Pennsylvania Senate with a photograph of Cody Stephens hoping that their testimony reached the ears of lawmakers deciding what to do about sudden death among student athletes.

Quest to save lives with ECG in 7 states

CROSBY – What began here as a quest to see if sudden death of young athletes could be stemmed by ECG screening has become a national issue with seven states currently undertaking bills much like the Cody Bill HB76 having passed the Texas Legislature last year.

After five years of effort, surprisingly with significant elements of the Medical community opposing it, Texas passed the Cody Bill enabling parents of first year athletes to opt into an Electrocardiogram screening to check their athlete’s heart for anomalies before the athlete takes to the field. Previously, annually sudden death from heart attack was generally an annual event somewhere in the state.

The Cody Bill finally passed the Texas House unanimously Stephens acknowledged the work from Rep. Dan Huberty, lobbyist Kathy Grant, everyone who testified at the Public Education Committee hearing and all who wrote letters to representatives to vote in favor of HB76. The bill passed the Texas Senate on May 20 by a vote of 20-11.

Stephens then said, “It has been seven years and two weeks to the day since Cody died in my easy chair for what we would later discover was unnecessary. So, my wife, Melanie and I said let’s give this thing seven years to get passed while we show them that screenings can be done all over the state without excessive spending and save some young lives. It really is a God thing. Right now, some 100 kids among those that have been screened throughout the State of Texas have been told they need heart surgery. Some 2,600 students have been told they need to be aware of heart conditions that could be a danger, now at least they have some knowledge of there is a condition. Right now, a Chiropractor can perform your child’s screening, in 2020 we can offer parents a EKG. We are the first state to offer this, I started getting calls from California, Florida and Massachusetts almost immediately to ask how we got it passed.”

Now Pennsylvania’s Senate has passed SB 836, Peyton’s Bill in honor of a young basketball player and it passed that Senate on Cody Stephens’ birthday, October 21.

There are varied forms of the bill concerned with prevention of sudden death. In California the Eric Paredes Cardiac Arrest Prevention Act authorizes pupils or parents to require an electrocardiogram.

In Minnesota HB 3145 is pending in House Education Policy Committee. It deals with concussions in addition to sudden cardiac arrest providing that a screening must for the first time include a blood pressure test. Symptoms of concussion or heart problems prompts additional responsibility and screening.

South Carolina is reviewing HB 3402 within the House Committee on Education and Public Works it is sponsored by Hunter Cobb.

Tennessee Bill 1302 introduces the feasibility of requiring students to undergo an ECG before participating in group sports. It has made it to review of the Committee Calendar. The wording however almost dooms its passage this year.

New Jersey would require 8th grade students to have a physical exam with a cardiac component. It has been referred on to the Senate Education Committee.

New York’s AB 4135a requires cardiac screening of student athletes but its status is currently stricken. It has been sent to the Committee of Education for review.

Stephens has presided over national groups such as Who We Play For (WWPF) a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to eliminate preventable sudden cardiac death in the young through affordable heart screenings.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest leads cause of death in sports, more than any form combined. Thousands of seemingly healthy kids die every year due to detectable heart conditions.

American College of Cardiology Scientific Session question if the ECG is necessary with only 20% saying it is and some 40% saying it should not be required but 74% of European Cardiologist say it should be required of first year athletes.