High school to hold 1-day athlete heart screenings

February 1, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Tim Halpin does not want any parent to experience his pain. He is hoping heart screening of student athletes will help prevent the death of teen athletes like his son Michael.

Mikey was a senior on the Los Gatos High School football team when he suffered a fatal heart attack while walking on campus in December of 2008. Tim thinks if Mikey had been screened for irregular heart activity, his condition may have been caught and his life saved. With that in mind, next month the school will hold its first ever heart screening in Mikey's honor.

The "Wildcat Heart Day for Mikey" is scheduled for March 20, and the school principal says the coaches for all sports are encouraging their student athletes to take part in the free screening. Principal Mark Autrey says, "It's a great proactive measure for the health and safety of the school's most active students and I hope it becomes an annual event."

Halpin approached Good Samaritan Hospital to help with the mass one-day screening. Hospital spokeswoman Leslie Kelsey says Good Samaritan was honored to take part and doctors stepped forward to volunteer their time. In addition to reviewing the medical history of the athletes, listening to their hearts and doing EKG screenings, the students will be trained in warning signs of heart trouble and how to use how an automated external defibrillator or AED unit to respond to sudden cardiac arrest.

The issue of widespread testing has been the subject of much debate. Critics point to the high cost of screening given the relatively low statistical risk and the chance of false positives. Halpin thinks that screening in schools should be required for student athletes and is hoping for state legislation that would support that effort. He is thrilled Los Gatos High School and Good Samaritan are teaming up for the March event and hopes it inspires other schools to take similar steps.