Texas bill would require heart screenings for athletes

February 12, 2015 / Sports Medicine
Three Texas lawmakers have introduced legislation that would require the state’s high school athletes to undergo heart screenings.

A Texas bill would require electrocardiograms for high school student-athletes.

Each legislator proposed their own version of the bill, all requiring electrocardiograms to be part of the required physical examination student-athletes must complete. One version would allow exemptions for religious or financial reasons.

Electrocardiograms can cost up to $15, according to The Texas Tribune. The three legislators are joined by a father who lost his son to a heart condition in 2012. The father believes an electrocardiogram could have discovered the problem.

This isn’t the first time Texas has tried to pass such a mandate.

From the article:

In 2013, State Rep. Sylvester Turner filed a bill that would add electrocardiograms to the physical exams already required by the University Interscholastic League (UIL). The bill died in committee.

Pat Shuff, the co-founder of Cypress ECG, a nonprofit organization that provides free heart screenings throughout the state, said the obstacle to getting such a requirement put in place has been that the UIL has been “unbudging” in its assertion that electrocardiograms are not necessary prior to participation in school athletics.

A spokeswoman for UIL — which organizes competitive activities for public schools in Texas — confirmed that the organization does not mandate such screenings. However, the spokeswoman, Kate Hector, said UIL recently began distributing information to families about heart health, including details about electrocardiograms.

Turner said the proposal has a better chance of passing this year because it has the backing of a bipartisan group of lawmakers. The three bill authors, he said, are “going to block, tackle and run.”

I was intrigued why in 2013 the state athletic association would stand in the way of such a measure. As it turns out, the medical community — and the UIL’s medical advisory board — were still divided on whether electrocardiograms were necessary. It’s unclear whether that opinion has changed, but proponents of the bill appear optimistic.

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