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Healthy Heart tests for athletes | News

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Healthy Heart tests for athletes

MUSKEGON, Mich. (WZZM) - In the past seven years, 28 young athletes in Michigan have died from Sudden Cardiac Death.

Most recently, 16-year old Wes Leonard of Fennville collapsed and died in March, after hitting a game winning shot. The story pulled together not just parents and athletes from around West Michigan, but also the medical community.

Now one West Michigan hospital is going to make an effort to make sure this tragedy doesn't happen again.

High school sports can be hard hitting and heart pounding, but the adrenaline rush that student athletes experience can also be life ending.

A very small number of athletes are in danger of dying from Sudden Cardiac Death Syndrome - less than 40 a year - but for West Shore Cardiologist Dr. Dan West that's 40 too many.

That's why Mercy Health Partners in Muskegon has partnered with William Beaumont Hospital near Detroit to give free student athlete heart screenings. "You would need to tell about 1,700 kids that they cannot participate in sports, because there is a risk of them dying suddenly..." And Dr. West adds if it's your child's life, it's worth it.

As part of the Student Athlete Heart Screening program, Mercy Health Partners Dr. West says they will offer EKGs for free, which normally costs between $50 to $100 per test. "We're gonna need to use hospital facilities hospital equipment and as of right now our plan is to offer it free to the community so we need to ask for volunteers from the staff."

As part of the testing they'll also conduct a family history screening which is one of the best indicators of heart health. "Does the kid have any high risk indicators? For example, 'is there anyone in their family that's died of sudden cardiac death as we describe it at a young age'?" says West.

By joining Beaumont Hospital's program, which has been in place for seven years, Dr. West says Mercy Health Partners will be helping not only save lives, but contribute to finding a way to diagnose sudden cardiac death earlier. "They've asked that we contribute to their research so that any information we generate because the more kids you have in the system the better."

And the more kids you can help live a longer life, even if it means giving up playing high school sports.

If a Muskegon County athlete is diagnosed with a heart problem that needs further attention that information will only be shared with the student's parent or legal guardian and it will be up to them to make sure more testing is done.



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