Texas bill would require heart screenings for HS athletes

A Texas lawmaker has proposed a bill that would require the state’s high school students to undergo a heart screening before participating in sports.

Under State Rep. Dan Huberty’s bill, “cardiac assessments” would be required before the athlete’s first year of participation at the ninth-grade level or above. It would then be required a second time before participation in 11th grade. The bill mandates that the University Interscholastic League (UIL) adopt the rule for every student-athlete who requires a physical.

Huberty filed House Bill 76 in honor of Cody Stephens, a Texas student-athlete who died in 2012 from an undiagnosed heart issue. He believed an electrocardiogram (ECG) could have saved Stephens’ life.

“Cody was a senior offensive lineman at Crosby High School who proudly wore number 76,” Huberty said in a statement. “Set to attend Tarleton State University on a football scholarship, he had the world at his fingertips, but his life was tragically cut short. Cody didn’t get the opportunity to have an ECG as a part of his sports physical, which could of found the heart issue that caused his death. This preventative measure could have easily saved his life.

“In an attempt to ensure the health and safety of other Texas students, I am once again partnering with the Cody Stephens Foundation to work on implementing this much-needed screening update.”

“Each year, student-athletes across the country die from exercise-induced cardiac arrest,” said Scott Stephens, father to Cody and founder of the Go Big or Go Home Foundation. “An ECG is a medical test that can be administered to detect the early signs of heart disease or disorders. The completion of an ECG is a big step in the early identification of heart disorders and can prevent the tragic deaths of more student athletes just like Cody.”

   » RELATED: Study: Heart screenings for athletes largely ineffective

There’s ongoing debate about whether ECGs can prevent sudden cardiac arrest. A 2017 study conducted at the University of Toronto, and reported in The New England Journal of Medicine, concluded that fewer than one in five cases of sudden cardiac arrest among athletes would have been prevented with a heart screening.

Huberty’s bill allows school districts to partner with nonprofit organizations to provide ECGs, or schools can pay for the tests on the athlete’s behalf. Otherwise, student-athletes would be forced to pay for the exam.

Read more about what’s happening in Texas.

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