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As the summer approaches, parents across the country are deciding where to put their children. Many are considering summer camps and youth programs. Those can be enjoyable alternatives, especially for children who have spent the school year in predictable “desk jobs” with limited physical activity. But for some parents and students, the drastic increase in strenuous activity coupled with the summertime heat can pose serious health risks.

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Almost everyone has heard the recent concerns about head trauma, concussions, and mild traumatic brain injuries found in not only NFL, but also college and high school football players. But as a South Florida children’s injury attorney, I was surprised to learn that Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD) is the number-one killer of young athletes in America.

SCD is such a common killer that a student dies from it every three days in the United States alone. Sadly, many of those deaths are preventable as they are triggered by undiagnosed and untreated pre-existing medical conditions. The good news is that SCD can be stopped.

STOPPING SUDDEN CARDIAC DEATHS

Most schools require students to undergo some type of medical clearance before playing on school-sanctioned teams. Unfortunately, summer camps usually have no such requirement. Often children entering a summer camp or youth program may be doing so without ever having received the athletic screening in school.

If you are considering putting your child in a summer camp that includes strenuous physical activity–like dodge ball, running, soccer, tug of war, kickball, or basketball, especially if played outside–we recommend that you have your child first undergo a physical examination by a competent pediatrician.

The typical examination would include listening to the heart, checking blood pressure, and reviewing the family history. Moreover, many experts in pediatric medicine are now recommending that an electrocardiogram, or EKG, also be performed to identify any hidden heart issues such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a thickening of the heart muscle.

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Parents in Miami who are concerned about the cost of an EKG for their child can obtain one for free for current middle school and high school students, thanks to Miami Children’s Hospital. I am asking Dr. Anthony Rossi, the Director of the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit at MCH, to please extend this generous gift to every child who is entering summer camp or a youth program but cannot afford or does not have the medical insurance to obtain this life-saving examination. For more information call The Heart Program at Miami Children’s Hospital (35) 662-8301.

AUTOMATIC EXTERNAL DEFIBRILLATORS

I also recommend that you confirm that your children’s camp has an available Automatic External Defibrillator AED and at least several adults who are trained to use it. AEDs can save a child’s life. I recently wrote about the horrifying incident involving a Florida high school athlete who collapsed during a sanctioned soccer game. While the school had both an AED and a trained school nurse present at the game, neither was utilized while the boy laid breathless waiting for Fire Rescue to arrive. The boy’s family sued the school and school board and the case was dismissed by both the trial court and appellate court finding no legal liability. You can read more about this in my recent blog for the Huffington Post, “Florida’s Shocking Defibrillator Law.”

 

Legislation should be enacted that would mandate EKG and physical examinations for all of Florida’s public school students. By deploying mobile EKG labs to each potential each school thousands of young lives will be saved.