Why Won't More Colleges & Universities Acknowledge Cardiac Testing Is the Right Thing to Do?

Jaylen Brantley’s diagnosis spurs action. Jaylen Brantley attended three high schools, one junior college, and one university prior to the University of Massachusetts, where his hypertrophic cardiomyopathy was discovered. UMass requires that all incoming athletes receive an EKG, and Jaylen’s irregular EKG led to an echocardiogram and MRI, which...
Jaylen Brantley’s diagnosis spurs action.
Jaylen Brantley hypertrophic cardiomyopathy diagnosis

Jaylen Brantley attended three high schools, one junior college, and one university prior to the University of Massachusetts, where his hypertrophic cardiomyopathy was discovered. UMass requires that all incoming athletes receive an EKG, and Jaylen’s irregular EKG led to an echocardiogram and MRI, which confirmed the condition.

If Jaylen hadn’t transferred to UMass from the University of Maryland, would he have found out about his condition? Likely not. He had no symptoms, as reported by Matt Vautour in the Daily Hampshire Gazette:

“There’s no symptoms. I didn’t feel sick. My heart wasn’t hurt. I never passed out. You never know. I definitely want to be an advocate for the disease I’m going through. There’s a lot of kids in college athletics who don’t know they have it. Just like me. I want to be an advocate. Every university in American should do EKGs. You never know what can happen. I’m just trying to turn the whole situation into a big positive.”

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is the leading cause of sudden cardiac death among young athletes. Jaylen could have died—at play or rest—at any time leading up to the diagnosis, which ultimately ended his basketball career.

According to the NCAA, roughly half of the 65 schools in the Power Five conferences conduct EKGs (source: Washington Post)

EKGs are a good start, but they are not enough. The #2 cause of sudden cardiac death in young athletes, congenital coronary artery anomalies, cannot be detected through EKG but can with echocardiography. It is not guaranteed that an EKG will pick up hypertrophic cardiomyopathy or other cardiomyopathies. Echocardiograms can confirm hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (as in Jaylen’s case) and can identify functional and structural abnormalities, such as heart valve abnormalities, holes in the heart muscle, and weakened heart muscle.

Roman Stubbs brings up the debate regarding mandatory screenings in the Washington Post article about Jaylen’s diagnosis:

Advocates believe EKG testing is a crucial and accurate measure to prevent sudden cardiac arrest; opponents argue that many schools do not have the resources to commit to accurate EKG testing. The American Heart Association has not endorsed uniform testing because sudden cardiac arrest among young athletes simply isn’t prevalent enough.

“Some places don’t have the resources to read [EKG’s] correctly. If you read them correctly, there’s a very low false-positive rate. You’re still going to miss some things. But some people and places just don’t have the resources to do that,” said Kim Harmon, who is the head physician for the University of Washington football team and has researched sudden cardiac arrest for much of her medical career. “The fact of the matter is it is really, really unlikely that you’re going to find something that is going to kill people” based off only a patient’s history and a routine physical.

When echocardiograms are used in conjunction with EKGs, false positives become a non-issue. Echocardiograms routinely confirm or refute a positive EKG finding (in addition to finding abnormalities that may not show up on an EKG).

Whether or not a school is in the “Power Five” should not be a determinant for more rigorous testing when it comes to athlete safety. High school, and even middle school, student athletes suffer sudden cardiac arrest. Wimbledon Health Partners finds life-threatening abnormalities in student athletes at NCAA, NAIA, and NJCAA division schools. Not all stories like Jaylen’s are publicized due to maintaining the privacy of an affected individual. Our partner schools know that testing their athletes is important and they have had a hand in helping save lives.

Jaylen has taken his diagnosis and new path in stride. He remains on scholarship at UMass and hopes to have a career in coaching. Instead of dwelling on having had his world turned upside down, Jaylen is imploring schools to take an active role in helping save the lives of their students, much like UMass did for him.

Jaylen’s mother Angela Cayode, too, is focusing on the bigger picture:

“If this is going to be the end of his career, it has to mean something and be about something. It has to count. He has to bring awareness about this. It’s his responsibility to save others’ lives. There’s not enough awareness out there,” she said. “The NCAA is making billions of dollars off these kids. They can’t give them one test? One test that could save their lives and reshape their futures?” (source: Daily Hampshire Gazette)

Proactively testing student athletes should not be a debate. It should be a given.

WHP’s EKGs and echocardiograms identify heart abnormalities—those that are imminently life-threatening and those that may require monitoring or intervention months or years down the road. Echocardiogram results are compared to corresponding EKGs to determine validity of an EKG finding. WHP’s vascular ultrasound identify blood clots and other vascular conditions to which athletes are prone (and other incidental conditions).

WHP’s program is cost-effective. We do not charge schools to host testing. We bill the student’s health insurance. A waiver is available to eliminate balance due from deductible or co-insurance for those eligible.

WHP’s program is convenient. Minimal resources are needed from the school. We provide equipment, resources, and qualified sonographers to perform the testing professionally. Our board certified physicians provide detailed findings and are available for consultation.

What do schools need to do? Invest the time in making sure your student athletes are safe.

I Want to Help Protect Young Athletes!

I Want to Help Protect Young Athletes!
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Wimbledon Athletics
Wimbledon U
Vascular Centers Of America
Source: www.wimbledonhealthpartners.com