Brevard County schools to consider heart screening for student athletes

Advocates hope to prevent sudden cardiac arrest among students

By Clay LePard - Reporter

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. - School leaders in Brevard County are discussing plans that would require heart screenings for student athletes. 

Even though 11 of 15 public high schools in Brevard County have voluntarily offered cardiac screenings through their athletic programs, Brevard Public Schools does not currently have a policy endorsing or requiring heart exams on a districtwide basis.

Calhoun County School District in Florida's Panhandle is the only one that currently requires all student athletes to undergo an EKG.

Lexi Sima has been one of the main advocates supporting the initiative. When Sima was a sophomore at Viera High School, she suffered a sudden cardiac arrest. 

"I was running on the treadmill doing something I've always done," she said. "I was running and I died. An EKG screening is an eight-minute test that can save many, many lives."

According to Brevard school officials, at least 20 school districts do not offer any cardiac screenings, including Marion, Polk, Seminole and Volusia counties. 

Brevard administrators found that at least nine other school districts, including Lake and Orange counties, do not mandate cardiac exams, but have allowed their high schools to independently arrange the tests.

Who We Play For, a nonprofit that provides low-cost EKG screenings, has worked with many of those schools to administer the exams.

The organization was created in memory of Rafe Maccarone, a Cocoa Beach High School soccer player who died from heart complications following practice in 2007.

"This is the leading cause of death in the school system and in sports," said Evan Ernst, executive director of Who We Play For. "It's pure insanity that we wait to see (this happen again.) We've screened more than 100,000 athletes and we've identified over 90 kids with life-threatening heart conditions."
 

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