South Bay school district implements heart checks on student athletes


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A nurse administers an electrocardiogram (EKG) to a child.

Michael Shulz '23 , Staff Reporter

Heart screenings for high school athletes may be a life-saver.  Recently, Campbell Union High School District became the first district in California to screen all student athletes for heart abnormalities. To support this endeavor, Campbell School District has partnered with the Los Gatos-based Kyle J. Taylor foundation as the first partnership of its kind in California.  

The foundation was named after Leigh High School graduate Kyle J. Taylor died of sudden cardiac arrest at 18. Kyle was asymptomatic prior to his cardiac arrest and the district hopes that heart screenings will help prevent another family from losing their child to sudden cardiac arrest.

Moreover, Campbell School District has suffered six student deaths in the last decade. “One in 300 kids have an undiagnosed heart condition, and sudden cardiac arrest is the No. 1 killer of students,” said Jennifer Sarmento, Kyle’s mother, according to the Mercury News. 

Sarmento added, “The pre-participation physical the kids currently do miss 90 percent of those because they can’t be heard through a stethoscope; they have to be seen through an EKG machine or an echocardiogram machine.  That’s why we bring those in for that extra step.”  

As a result of Kyle’s death, the district is motivated to make a change in their community and are hopeful that their partnership with the foundation will set the precedent and be a role model for other districts. 

Additionally, Riordan’s Athletic Director, Bob Greene, believes that “any sort of screening or pre-emptive checking for health-related reasons for our athletes is good because it could help avoid an issue and raises awareness for the students.”  

Greene also stated that “along with the pre-participation physical, all athletes and their guardians must review and sign an acknowledgment of information provided related to sudden cardiac arrest signs and symptoms.  In addition, all coaches have to do a sudden cardiac arrest training every two years.”  

Greene has not had any students experience sudden cardiac arrest during his time at Riordan. However, Greene mentioned that many years ago, Athletic Trainer Erin Stovall, and another student saved a baseball coach’s life with life-saving procedures, which included the utilization of an AED machine. 

Cross Country runner, Dax Vitug ’23, believes that, “All high school student athletes need to have a complete physical before participating in sports, including a heart test, so that cardiac arrests can be prevented.”

Heart health should be a priority for all athletes.  Pre-participation screening of all high school athletes with an EKG, cardiovascular-focused history, and a physical may be an effective solution to help save lives, as athletes need to be aware of their heart health to ensure a healthy career in their sport.