As the Texas Legislature debates the merits of mandatory EKG screenings to participate in high school athletics, Memorial Hermann Northeast Hospital is proving how critical heart exams are.
In the last month, EKG screenings performed by the hospital on student-athletes have alerted more than a dozen families something was abnormal about their kids’ hearts.
In Texas, student-athletes undergo physicals every year. But when it comes to the heart, the University Interscholastic League, which oversees high school athletics, doesn’t require EKG screenings. Texas lawmakers are now debating whether to change that.
“It’s an excellent opportunity to be tested for these students, otherwise they may not be able to get that screening,” said Dr. Michael Cusick, with Memorial Hermann Northeast Hospital.
On Wednesday at Atascocita High School, Memorial Hermann Northeast offered free EKG screenings to student-athletes with their physicals.
“You know it’s just another fail safe for us parents to have that piece of mind that our kids are healthy and safe,” said coach Thomas Melvin, who coaches football at Atascocita and has two daughters, both of whom underwent the heart test. “You see kids everyday die on the field from unforeseen heart problems. If we can do anything to prevent those as physicians and coaches, it’s always a positive.”
If House Bill 767—named after Cody Stephen, who died in 2012—passes through the Texas Senate and becomes law, EKG tests will cost families about $15.
This month alone, doctors have tested more than 1,000 student-athletes. Fourteen of those students were referred to a cardiologist for further tests, leading to 14 lives potentially saved.
“If you can reduce the chance of a cardiac event just by one with a test like an EKG, then that’s worth the money we’re putting into the testing,” said Cusick.