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Doctor: Physicals don't always reveal heart conditions

LAPORTE, Ind. -- A LaPorte High School student collapsed on the football field and died. What do parents and athletes need to know before kids step onto the field?

Indiana state law requires student athletes to get a physical evaluation every year before participating in sports.

Doctor Linda Mansfield at the Memorial Sports Medicine Institute says athletes should see a doctor whenever they notice something wrong, not just for their yearly checkup.

"Any chest pain. Any dizziness with exercise. Any trouble breathing when they exercise," said Mansfield.

That's because twice as many athletes die from heart failure than from trauma associated with their sport.

"If there's a heart murmur we're always very suspicious and we want to get that checked out. And that doesn't preclude the athlete from participating, we just want to do some further testing before they can," said Mansfield.

Unfortunately, in certain cases, even a perfectly healthy athlete can pass their physical examination and suffer a sudden cardiac collapse.

"Often times there could be a heart issue with no outward sign when you hear about these sudden cardiac deaths. In 30 to 50 percent of the time that's the first time you know there's a heart issue," said Mansfield.

The Indiana High School Athletic Association says incidents like this are extremely rare.

"The reality is we have 160,000 youngsters participating in high school sports. And this is a very rare occurrence. But it doesn't diminish the fact that it's a tragedy for this school and community," said Bobby Cox of IHSAA.

Sudden cardiac deaths are sparking debate in the medical community. Some doctors are pushing for every athlete to undergo a mandatory heart evaluation.

 

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