Auburn High student athletes to receive free heart screenings

UMass Medical School faculty volunteer services at Sept. 29 event

By Lisa M. Larson

UMass Medical School Communications

September 26, 2012
Darshak Sanghavi, MD

Auburn Heart Watch, the Nick of Time Foundation and physicians from UMass Medical School will provide free youth heart screenings at Auburn High School on Sept. 29 to raise awareness about sudden cardiac arrest among young athletes and detect any related heart conditions in students. The event is open to all Auburn High School students, who are required to pre-register.

This first-of-its-kind event for New England is organized by Auburn mother Donna Anderson, with support from the Nick of Time Foundation. Darshak Sanghavi, MD, associate professor of pediatrics and chief of pediatric cardiology at UMass Memorial Medical Center, and David A. Kane, MD, and Michael C. Fahey, MD, assistant professors of pediatrics, are volunteering their time to provide the heart screenings.

“As a mom of a soccer player, I just feel that if there’s anything we can do to prevent sudden cardiac death in our kids, we should do it,” said Anderson, whose son, Robert, is a senior at Auburn High. “Our goal is to raise awareness, provide training in life-saving techniques and catch any heart problems in our students. I hope we don’t find any.”

According to the American Heart Association, one in every 350 young people may have an undetected heart condition. The Auburn heart screening event will consist of a comprehensive family health history survey, as well as ECGs (electrical tests) and echocardiograms of the heart. The tests are painless and take about 25 minutes. Auburn students will also be trained in CPR and how to use an AED (Automated External Defibrillator).

“Sudden cardiac death in young people is a devastating and potentially preventable problem,” said Dr. Sanghavi. “By participating in this community partnership, UMass pediatric cardiology specialists will not only provide public service to the community and support their dedicated volunteerism, but also gather important analytic data to assess and track the results of this screening.”

Current statistics show that sudden cardiac arrest is the leading cause of death in exercising youth athletes, happening once every three days in the United States. In most cases, there are no prior symptoms.

The Seattle-based Nick of Time Foundation, founded in 2004 to prevent sudden cardiac arrest in youth athletes after the death of 16-year-old athlete Nicholas Varrenti, is dedicated to educating the public about sudden cardiac arrest in youth and the importance of having automated external defibrillators in all public places, including schools.