(This column was written April 4, 2011)
By Shelly Saltman
It is always sad when an athlete in the prime of his, or her, life is struck down for no apparent reason. Until that time, we normally ask no questions and then we are up in arms.
This is the story about a husband and wife who for years have been calling attention to the need for, as well as asking for, better examinations for high school-age athletes. It is a story that although necessary, for the most part, has fallen on deaf ears.
Oh yes! Everyone is sympathetic and thinks it's a great idea, but no one is moved to action. The death of 16-year-old Wes Leonard in
They, for years, have been talking to anyone who would listen. Most often it fell on deaf ears ... basically because of the expense involved in their plan. They wish to test every athlete prior to the season for any heart abnormalities. For the most part no one listened. Finally, someone has listened.
They have enlisted the expertise of Dr. Vishva Dev, the medical director of
However, the idea, though a good and necessary one, has hit a snag. Doctors might be willing to donate their time and services, but in this litigious country of ours they have to worry about personal liability. This is an extremely difficult thing to get around. Securing such insurance for the doctors would be extremely costly. Hell, we cannot raise enough money for pencils and papers and teacher's salaries in today's economy! How can we even think of doing this?
I turned to an old friend who also happens to be my personal doctor and, as an internal medicine specialist, is constantly called upon by NIH (the National Institute of Health) to solve some of their most difficult problems. He felt he had the answer. One, I think might actually be doable.
Jeff is not just a doctor, but like most of us he is an avid sports fan. In his case, it's anything
However, to do what the Lins want to do and what medical men feel is necessary cannot be accomplished without funding. In today's economy there has to be a way to achieve their goal. Jeff's idea is to put together a game plan and seek funding for research whereby Coach Lins' high school can become the pilot program. The program primarily would consist of testing young athletes prior to the season with the proper equipment.
There is no guarantee that this is a solve-all, but if one Wes Leonard, or Hank Gathers, or for that matter Florence Joyner, can still be with us and leading a fruitful life, then this testing would have proven successful. It's a worldwide problem.
As a matter of fact, around the same time that Leonard became a fatality, Mathew Hammerdorer, a 17-year-old rugby player in a
There is a whole litany of such incidents. There are, of course, typical symptoms, signs that parents can see such as chest pains, dizziness, or passing out. These are typically passed over or ignored with the admonition don't overdo your exercise.
I speak from experience. I am older, but I thought I had indigestion. Thanks to Dr. Dev and his awareness, I am here today to write bout it.
We shouldn't just praise the Lins for their efforts, we need to figure out a way to help. All ideas and proposals are welcome. In the meantime, we should all learn CPR and insist our teenage athletes be properly checked up before embarking on any sport.