I was struck by three things. First, there were a lot of kids at the basketball game.
Second, there was no mention of heart health for kids. Couldn't the No. 1 killer of women in this country be prevented at some level by teaching little girls about heart health, too?
Third, there was no mention that sudden cardiac arrest is the No. 1 cause of death of student athletes. Every player on that court was a student athlete at some point, just as many children in the crowd are now.
The NBA is great backdrop to discuss the issue of heart health because conditions that lead to sudden cardiac arrest have impacted several players. In 2006, the NBA set the standard on fighting sudden cardiac arrest when it became the first major sports league to institute mandatory heart screenings. The other leagues have since followed the NBA's example. This measure, which exceeds the recommendations of the American Heart Association, has saved lives.
Just last year, LaMarcus Aldridge of the Portland Trailblazers was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome. He underwent a medical procedure. Jeff Green of the Boston Celtics discovered an aortic aneurysm and underwent surgery to correct the problem. Chuck Hayes of the Sacramento Kings failed his physical due to a heart condition. He was later cleared to play. In a league of about 450 players, heart conditions have been discovered in 1 percent of them.
Sudden cardiac arrest is the undisputable leading cause of death of adults in the United States, and it kills thousands of children every year, too. To address this problem, Simon's Fund and other organizations around the country provide free heart screenings to students. If it is good enough for the NBA, isn't it good enough for our kids? So far, at our screenings, we have found that one out of every 100 students has some sort of heart condition. Sounds like the findings from the NBA.
This approach is supported by medical research too. In the 1980s, Italy mandated screening the hearts of all school-aged children. As a result, the incidence of sudden cardiac death in children there has been reduced by 89 percent.
In our effort to raise awareness about heart disease, including designating February American Heart Month, let's not pretend that adults are the only ones at risk. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, about 2,000 children die each year from sudden cardiac arrest. Clearly, prevention must start with them.
It's time for the rest of society to follow in the footsteps of the NBA and Italy. Let's go Krimson for Kids, and check our kids' hearts.
Phyllis and Darren Sudman, of Plymouth Meeting, founded the nonprofit Simon's Fund ( www.simonsfund.org) in memory of their son Simon, who died of sudden cardiac arrest at 14 weeks of age, in 2005.