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February 23, 2012 - Image 51

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2012-02-23

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health & fitness

Saving Young Hearts

Free teen athlete screenings can help avert sudden cardiac death.

Robert Sklar
Contributing Editor


A Preventive Measure
Max Goldman's aunt, Nancy Cutler, M.D.,
is among the physicians, organizations,
donors and volunteers that joined with
Beaumont to improve the odds for athleti-
cally competitive 13- to 18-year-old high
school students in Oakland, Macomb and
Wayne counties.
The most-common cause of sudden car-
diac death among teen athletes is abnor-
mal heart muscle thickening — hypertro-
phic cardiomyopathy, a generally familial
condition affecting one in 500 people.
It typically doesn't become detectable
until later in adolescence or young adult-
hood, said Cutler, a Beaumont Children's
Hospital cardiologist. The assistant pro-
fessor at the Oakland University William

Dr. Nancy Cutler and her nephew, skier Max Goldman, 15, who was tested through

Healthy Heart Check

"To see a 16-year-old fall
down and die, whether
its playing baseball or
football or running track,
is pathetic. It tears my
heart out. It does not
have to happen."

- benefactor Max Ernst

Beaumont School of Medicine added,
"This is why we do not screen younger
kids, such as middle school age:'
Cutler has been part of Healthy Heart
Check since its start in May 2007. More than
8,000 students have been screened at no
charge. The program seeks to help detect

Beaumon t Hea lth Sy stem

ax Goldman, 15, loves to corn-
pete as a varsity skier at West
Bloomfield High School. The
freshman agreed to have Beaumont Health
System test his heart for abnormalities
after his parents heard about healthy teens
dropping dead while playing organized
Athletes and other teens who die while
competing in a vigorous activity typically
suffer sudden cardiac arrest despite hav-
ing no symptoms of heart problems.
Max's April 2011 test results were
normal. A member of the Temple Shir
Shalom youth group and Greenberg AZA,
he was happy to follow the advice of his
parents, Amy and Kevin Goldman of West
Bloomfield, and be tested. "I felt it was
important because I have read the sto-
ries, too:' said Max, who hopes to work in
sports management.
"We would never take a chance,' Amy
The testing involves a health history, a
physical exam and noninvasive screening.
"It was extremely thorough, and it did a
lot to ease our minds," Amy said.
Beaumont sponsors the program thanks
largely to a generous donation from Max
and Debra Ernst of Orchard Lake. Last
year, the Ernst family gifted $3 million
to Beaumont Health System to name the
Ernst Cardiovascular Center in Royal Oak
in memory of Max's late wife, Ellen. The
center is dedicated to the diagnosis, treat-
ment and care of people with heart and
vascular disease.
Part of the Ernsts' gift was earmarked
for free exams as part of the off-campus
Healthy Heart Check student-screening

Debra and Max Ernst

are chief Sunders of

Beaumont's student-

screening, program.

electrical heart rhythm issues or structural
problems that put students at risk.
"I'm a mom, an athlete and a doctor —
and I can vouch that this is a great service
that can, and probably has, already saved
lives:' Cutler said. "It's a privilege to be
part of this program."

Heartfelt Success
Screening results speak loudly.
About 13 percent of students tested had
an abnormal initial screen that led to a
limited echocardiogram during the typical
hour-long session. Almost 10 percent were
referred to their physician for follow-up;
45 students were advised to stop strenu-
ous sports until evaluated by a cardiolo-
gist. Testing has found serious heart con-
dition cases as well as suspicious history
demanding further evaluation.
"Remember, this is a screen:' Cutler
said. "We are not trying to diagnose, man-
age and treat, but rather just make sure we
detect and pick out those teens at risk."
Beaumont researchers may use the data,
collected anonymously, to study sudden
cardiac arrest in young athletes.
Screening sites have included high
schools as well as Oakland University.
Families first make an appointment at a
scheduled site, then download or request
the paperwork, including a questionnaire
to be filled out at home. On site, students
move through privacy stations while par-
ents browse through heart healthy infor-
mation. The student heart check includes
a medical history, a physical exam usually
by a cardiologist, a blood pressure check,
an electrocardiogram (ECG), which can
detect heart problems, and, if necessary, a
limited echocardiogram, an ultrasound of
the heart.
"Depending on the findings:' Cutler
said, "there might be no restrictions or
students might be advised to either stop
sports until further evaluated or to con-
tinue to play, but with follow-up with a
All-clear findings are great. Students go
home with a copy of their ECG and paper-
work completed by a physician.
"This is not a pre-participation physical
and does not replace the evaluation by a
doctor:' Cutler stressed. "It only evaluates
from a cardiac standpoint."
Families get copies of results within two
weeks to share with their family physician.

A Team Effort
Such heart checks can cost $1,000 each
and are usually not part of the routine
physical required before joining a school
sports program, according to Beaumont's
student-screening website.
No one knows exactly how many teens
experience sudden cardiac arrest each
year. But data collected by the National
Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury
Research suggest that 15 high school
athletes die each year due to heart-related
problems, Frederick Mueller, director of

Young Hearts on page 36

February 23 • 2012


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