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Protecting student athletes from sudden cardiac arrest

Posted at 4:39 PM, Jul 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-27 21:39:27-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Monitoring heart conditions in student athletes: it’s a growing concern among doctors and health experts.

On Tuesday, Gov. Holcomb took action, requiring all Indiana high schools to provide educational materials about sudden cardiac arrest to all student athletes, parents and coaches. Plus, now each coach has to be certified in CPR.

“Sudden cardiac arrest happens in student athletes and you would never know it because they’re all healthy. Or you think they’re healthy until something tragic happens,” said Janelle Guidry.

It was Janelle Guidry’s son, Max’s dream to play Division I soccer. He achieved that goal and was headed to IUPUI last August. That is, until he underwent IUPUI required EKG screening for student athletes and it was detected he had a heart condition called long QT syndrome.

“You don’t ever want your kid to go through anything,” she said. That’s hard.”

“I was just more focused on playing soccer and wondering if I could still play the game I love or not,” said Max Guidry.

Long QT syndrome is a genetic condition where the distance between your heart beats is prolonged. As a result, Janelle also found out she had it, too.

“Would never have known,” she said. “I’ve never had any trouble. Max has never had any trouble. He’s played soccer since he was four.”

“Participation in athletics is a risk for sudden cardiac death,” said Dr. Richard Kovacs, a cardiologist at IU Health.

Dr. Kovacs said cardiac arrest can happen at any age, but athletes are most at risk. He’s been fighting at the statehouse for education about sudden cardiac arrest and heart issues in student athletes.

Now, Gov. Holcomb has signed a bill requiring all Indiana high schools receive information sheets about the signs and symptoms and are prepared when and if an event happens.

“Recognition that this could be a cardiac event is really really important for the coaches, the medical staff and the players,” Kovacs said.

Max now takes beta blocker medication every day and is able to play for IUPUI for the first time this fall.

“I’m very excited, hoping to go out there and make an impact for the team,” Max said.

He and his family are grateful the state legislature took action to protect student athletes, like him, in Indiana.

“I just think it’s an awesome thing keeping us athletes on the field while I’m bringing attention to him and if positions in the coaches that they can help out,” he said.