Does your teen have an undiagnosed heart condition?

Symposium this weekend to educate others about risk of cardiac arrest in children

Neigere Poyser, a 16-year-old Ribault High School student, had an unknown heart condition that was diagnosed during a physical.

Jacksonville, Fla. – Neigere Poyser is a 16-year-old Ribault High School who loves to play football.  He's young, muscular, looks like a typical healthy high school athlete. Even though he said he would feel his heart race before being tackled on the football field, he never told anyone. Until he attended a program last summer through the Jacksonville Sports Medicine Program that offers physicals to local student athletes.

"One of the questions we asked is do you ever have a fast heart beat while exercising?   remembers Dr. Randall Bryant, a pediatric cardiologist with Wolfson Children's Hospital.  "He said his heart races playing football, right before he gets hit.  So we did an electrocardiogram and it was significantly abnormal, he had a procedure that fixed the problem," explained Dr. Bryant who added the condition put him at risk of sudden cardiac death, which could have killed him. 

There are certain symptoms of cardiac arrest in athletes, according to Dr. Bryant:

* heart palpitations, or a feeling like your heart is beating very fast

* chest pains

* excessive fatigue, you're more tired than the other players on the field/court

*passing out or feeling like you're about to pass out

If you experience any of these, the first episode can be your last.  You need to see your primary care physician who can figure out if you need to be referred to a cardiac specialist.

"We are not trying to limit these athletes," said Dr. Bryant who explained many student athletes ignore symptoms because they're worried they won't be able to play.   "1 out of 350 students has some type of heart disease," he said and there are times when a child has no family history, they are the first patient, not their parents. 

Does your school or recreational league have "the plan"?

According to the American Heart Association, 70% of Americans would panic in an emergency situation.  It's important that your child's school and recreational league have an Automated External Defibrillator, AED, and a plan in place should a student collapse.  Bob Sefcik with the Jacksonville Sports Medicine Program suggests parents ask their child's school if they have a certified athletic trainer who attends athletic events and if everyone on campus knows what to do if there is an emergency?

Symposium this weekend:

There is a symposium Friday and Saturday afternoon which will focus on preventing sudden death in sports.  3 nationally recognized presenters will speak.  Ron Courson, is the head athletic trainer at the University of Georgia, Johna Register- Mihalik with the University of North Carolina and Douglas Casa with the Korey Stringer Institute at the University of Connecticu.  They will be speaking about spine injuries, emergency plans, concussions and heat illnesses.  Courson and Register- Mihalik will speak Friday April 17th, Casa will take the podium Saturday morning at Jacksonville University.

The symposium is open to anyone in the medical community, including physical therapists and athletic trainers, school administrators are also encouraged to attend.  You must register by Wednesday, April 15th.  You can call 202- 4332 or click here.

About the Author:

Jennifer, who anchors The Morning Shows and is part of the I-TEAM, loves working in her hometown of Jacksonville.