SOUTH BEND — The health of student athletes has become a big concern after recent deaths on the playing field. But South Bend schools, with the help of Memorial Hospital, are using a new tool to ensure student safety.
The Indiana High School Athletic Association has required physical exams for student athletes for years. But with the generosity of Memorial Hospital, South Bend schools are now taking the issue to heart.
Clay High School sophomore Desmond Preston is a starting center for the Colonial junior varsity basketball team. After hearing about the deaths of student athletes, Preston worries about the risks of playing sports.
"Sometimes, but I try not to think about it," Preston said.
In March, Fennville Michigan high school junior Wes Leonard died minutes after scoring a game winning basket. Doctors determined he died of an enlarged heart.
"It's very rare," said Dr. Raman Mitra, director of Memorial Heart and Vascular Center. "Probably less than 1 out of 200,000."
Even though the chances are slim, South Bend schools don't want to take any chances. So this year, they've added echocardiogram screening to the mandatory student athlete physicals.
Not every student gets the screening, only those who show signs of heart problems or have a family history of such. The onsite screenings can save families a lot of money and a lot of worry.
"We'd have to get them setup to go to a cardiologist," said Dr. Mark Lavallee, director of Sports Medicine at Memorial Hospital. "Time and expense for many kids that can't afford that now a days."
"If they see something or hear something that raises concern, we can lay that to rest pretty quickly and if we find something, then we can take the appropriate steps," adds Dr. Mitra.