Gov. Corbett signs bill to protect student athletes from sudden death

Posted: May 31, 2012

Gov. Corbett signed into law this morning a bill designed to protect student athletes with undetected heart conditions from sudden death while playing sports.

House Bill 1610, the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Prevention Act, became the law during a ceremonial signing at the Visitation BVM Church on North Trooper Road in Norristown.

The governor’s office said undetected heart conditions claim 7,000 young lives each year nationwide.

"Being sidelined for a game is better than being lost forever," said Corbett. "This is a law of prevention, born out of a painful loss and a spirit of generosity from these families who have seen bearing their own sorrow and found hope for others."

Among those at the event were the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Mike Vereb (R., Montgomery), and Darren and Phyllis Sudman of Plymouth Meeting. The Sudmans lost their 3-month-old son Simon to an undetected heart defect in 2005. The couple put him down for a nap, and he never woke up, his mother said.

The couple created a nonprofit, Simon’s Fund, which offers heart screenings for children, and also pushed legislators to write a bill that would provide specific steps for coaches to take to protect athletes from sudden cardiac death.

The law requires a coach, game officials, or school-certified athletic trainer or doctor to look for signs of cardiac arrest, including fainting, difficulty breathing, chest pain, dizziness and a racing heart rate. Athletes showing those signs must be pulled from the game immediately.

To return to the court or playing field, the athletes must have a written note from a doctor, registered nurse, nurse practitioner, or cardiologist. The law also requires coaches of sports and cheerleading to undergo annual training in the warning signs for cardiac arrest.

Athletes have been known to collapse and die from undetected hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a thickening of the muscle that makes it difficult for the heart to pump blood.

In August 2010, that condition caused the death of Akhir Frazier, 16, a Prep Charter High School student and basketball star.

Contact Bonnie L. Cook at 610-313-8232 or bcook@phillynews.com. Read her MontCo Memo blog at philly.com.

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