Heart test could save lives as new details emerge in deaths of S - FOX Carolina 21

Heart test could save lives as new details emerge in deaths of SC athletes

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A South Carolina coroner in Lexington County is bringing awareness to a test that could save the lives of athletes.  Her call to action comes following the death of 14 year old football player Lewis Simpkins. 

He collapsed in the locker room after practice, and the coroner there said he died from a heart condition and other contributing factors. And over the weekend Michael Roache, a Wofford College linebacker had a brush with death when he collapsed on the field at a Tennessee Tech game.

The crowd stood by in silence, as the junior linebacker's heart had stopped. "The world kind of zoned out around me, " said Roche." He said he was in the right place at the right time..."It was more so of a perfect storm."

Medical staff for the team immediately used an AED, and got his heart beating again, he was then rushed to the hospital."They did more tests, EKG and a heart echo the next morning which was when they found out that I had the hypertrophic cardiomyopathy," said Roache in a Tuesday presser. 

Doctors say it's that defect, that causes the most sudden cardiac deaths for athletes nationwide.  "That's the ongoing debate, is where do we go from here?" said Dr. Christian Montagano with Emergency MD in Greenville. 

Montagano said he often performs athlete physicals and said there have been discussions in the medical field as to how to properly screen kids for these defects.

"Screening EKGs versus screening ultrasounds of the heart, you know what's the most cost effective way?" said Dr. Montagano. In those physicals he says he looks for signs of a possible heart condition, and asks the students specific questions.

"Chest pain with exercise, shortness of breath, becomes light headed or dizzy, passing out is a major red flag," he said.

In the Upstate,16 year-old Legacy soccer player Titus Martin collapsed on the field in August of 2015. The Coroners Office released new information on Wednesday that Martin had a congenital heart defect that cut his life short. A deputy coroner said that one of his arteries had become detached from the heart. 

Doctors like Montagano say the best advice for parents is to be preventative, "Ensure that any athlete with those symptoms needs to be investigated by their doctor," he said. 

He also said if a child presents symptoms he recommends getting electrocardiograms,"It can even give us an idea of the size of the ventricles, if there is enlargement there, that would be a good cheap screening test."

That is the same message that Lexington County Coroner wrote in her report on Lewis Simpkins, saying, "An ECG can uncover signs of dangerous and irregular heart rhythms but doesn't catch every damaged heart."

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