OKEMOS (WILX)--A simple 20 minute screening can be the difference between life or death for some athletes.
Cardiac abnormalities are the most common cause of sudden death in high school sports. As a preventive measure the McLaren Cardiovascular Group opened its doors Saturday for local students to give free tests. The tests normally cost $40 dollars and consist of a blood pressure test, EKG, and sometimes a heart ultrasound.
Mother of three very active athletes, Paula Manderfield brought her kids in to get some peace of mind.
"You read stories about sudden cardiac arrest and students dying after a swim meet or basketball game. You think gosh, what if that's my kid," said Manderfield.
Their family has a history of heart problems, that's why Manderfeild's daughter got a heart ultrasound.
"When we do the echo or ultra sound. We are looking for any thickening of the heart valves, thickening of the heart muscle, or abnormalities of the function of the heart. The ultrasound shows us if there is anything that could have been wrong from birth," said Cardiologist Dr. Paul Zack.
A sudden cardiac arrest in high school athletes is fairly uncommon. According to the American Heart Association there is one death per one hundred thousand athletes in the U.S. But every so often Dr. Zack will find an abnormality.
"200 students have gone through each year. During that time there's only been a handful that required further evaluation and additional heart tests," said Zack.
As an adult getting your blood pressure checked is normal routine when you go to see the doctor. But for adolescents it's not as common. That's why something as simple as getting your child's blood pressure taken can help detect if they have any heart problems.
"Every once in a while we find a young athlete that has a elevated blood pressure that would require further evaluation or treatment," said Zack.
All three of Manderfield's children were told they had healthy hearts. So mom can stop worrying now and push her kids to be the best.
"I'll push them and say, Go! Run faster! And I will know that they are not going to drop dead," said Manderfield.
The McLaren Cardiovascular Group is planning a second free screening for August of this year. It will be located at the new office in Grand Ledge. We will let you know when they start taking appointments.