Battling sudden cardiac arrest: A silent killer in NJ schools
Sudden cardiac arrest is a silent killer that strikes 7,000 children a year.
In response, federal legislation has been introduced that calls for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, patient advocacy and health professional organizations to develop educational materials and resources on cardiomyopathy, so it can be distributed to schools, teachers and parents.
“Raising awareness about the causes of sudden cardiac arrest and ensuring schools are more prepared to deal with cardiac emergencies are the first steps in preventing these tragic deaths," NJ Congressman Frank Pallone, the sponsor of the Health Education, Awareness, Risk Assessment and Training in the Schools (HEARTS) Act, said in a statement. "I’m proud to introduce the HEARTS Act to take these much-needed measures to combat SCA.”
Steve Timko, the executive director of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association, supports the measure, but he also said this issue is already being addressed in the Garden State.
“NJSIAA requires a cardiac screening as part of the health pre-participation form for all of our student athletes,” Timko said. “And all of our physicians have to take a course online dealing with cardiology to deal just specifically with the pre-participation physical form.”
He said the state's athletic trainers "are definitely on line with all of this, and we already have a law in place that specifies you have to be able to get to a defibrillator within 90 seconds on school grounds, then back to the individual in need.”
According to Timko, New Jersey high school students are required to take a CPR class in order to graduate .
“The NJSIAA I think has been trying to stay in the forefront on this issue to protect the health of our student athletes,” he said. "But communication with parents and students is also important, and if we can keep that open line of communications, if there are issues, then it only serves for the betterment all the way around.”
Timko said the cardiac screening requirement for all student athletes is substantial.
“New Jersey’s Department of Education spent a great deal of time developing this pre-participation with cardiology. They’re taking it very seriously,” he said.
Timko adds there are have been instances when student athletes have died from cardiac arrest in Jersey.
“But there are a number of situations that have taken place over the past couple of years, that because of our athletic trainers and our coaching staff, that lives have been saved at the same time," he said. "I think we’re continually moving forward trying to stay on top of this issue – we seem to be at the forefront, but we want to continue to get better.”
In the United State there are an estimated 600,000 people with Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy and there are nearly one million with other conditions that can cause SCA in young people. According to the CDC, one student athlete falls victim to SCA every three to four days.