SIOUX FALLS, SD -
Most people think of athletes as the picture of health, but they could be hiding a serious health problem.
A new study finds that every year one in 44,000 college athletes die from sudden cardiac death. That number and the recent death of a Michigan high school basketball player have some parents thinking more about getting their athlete's heart screened.
Twelve-year-Maddisen Barness and her 14-year-old sister McKenna have never felt pain in their chest, never complained about feeling faint, yet their parents wanted doctors to take a look at their heart.
“It's hard to explain to them that you know sometimes there are things you can't see,” Bryan Barness said.
The sisters went through a series of tests Sanford provides in a youth heart screen. It's as simple as an ultrasound of the heart, an EKG that measure the heart's rhythm, checking things like their cholesterol, and blood pressure.
“We're just really looking for any of the silent causes of sudden death,” Sanford Pediatric Cardiologist Dr. Theresa Stamato said.
Stamato says a lot of those defects have no symptoms, kids don't complain about their chest hurting.
“Unfortunately sometimes the first symptom they may have is sudden death,” Stamato said.
While it is rare, Stamato says it's still important young athletes get a sports physical every year and have their heart checked out.
“Over the years we've picked up quite a few pretty serious defect that could have caused problem for the athlete while they were playing,” Stamato said.
Athletics take up most of this family’s time, taking the girls from track practice to soccer and volleyball games.
But stopping to have their hearts screened was important.
“You know the things that have come out in the news recently with a few young athletes with sudden death I though you know it was something we could do for them and at the same time I think it gave us some piece of mind,” Barness said.
The good news is both Maddisen's and McKenna's hearts are healthy.
“It's nice to know that everything's OK,” Maddisen said.
That way these girls can go on playing and their parents won't fear the unknown.
The youth athletic heart screen
is $50, but if a parent has had a heart or vascular screen at Sanford you get a discount.
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