David Heller was a dedicated basketball player with many dreams. He attended Central Catholic High School here in Portland. After a league basketball game in 2005, David died in his sleep at only 17 years old from an enlarged heart, caused by a heart disease called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). Eight years after the tragedy, David’s family honors his memory by raising awareness of the dangers of undiagnosed heart disease in athletes.
HCM is when the heart muscle is abnormally thickened, putting teens at risk when they exercise. Teens may have symptoms of HCM, but some will have no symptoms at all. This genetic disease is the leading cause of sudden cardiac death among young competitive athletes and the second most prevalent form of heart muscle disease. The American Heart Association reports that one in every 30,000 to 50,000 high school aged athletes die annually in the United States from sudden cardiac arrest. More than 10 percent of athletes screened at the 2012 Teen Athlete Cardiac Screening event were not cleared for physical activity.
Weeks before he died, David was cleared to play basketball at his annual sports physical. His passing stunned his parents, Jeff and Bev Heller. Heart screenings are not a routine part of sports physicals, but they are especially important for teen athletes because they detect heart issues that may be life threatening or may affect a teen’s athletic performance.
If your teen has HCM, signs may include:
- shortness of breath or trouble breathing, especially during physical activity,
- chest pain,
- serious heart beat irregularities (arrhythmias).
- swelling in the ankles, feet, legs, abdomen and veins in the neck, or
The seventh annual Teen Athlete Cardiac Screening is sponsored by Randall Children’s Hospital at Legacy Emanuel and the David Heller Foundation, with generous support from adidas and Health Net of Oregon. The event will provide 500 students from throughout the Portland metropolitan area ages 13–19 with a full cardiac screening at only $10 per student. Scholarships are available for qualifying students.
The event is Saturday, October 12, 2013, from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the adidas Village: 5055 N. Greeley Avenue in Portland. Preregistration is required at www.legacyhealth.org/TACS, or by calling 503-335-3500 in Portland or 360-487-3500 in Vancouver. All registered teens will receive a pass to the adidas Village Employee Store and can hang out in the teen fun zone while they wait to be screened.
At the screening, cardiac health exams will be performed by a team of physicians and healthcare providers, nurses and technicians. The exams include:
- height, weight, body mass index (BMI) and blood pressure measurements,
- electrocardiogram (ECG), which is reviewed during the event by a pediatric cardiologist,
- a detailed health history of the student and review of his or her family’s health history, and
- a cardiac exam.
Teens receive their results at the screening. Results will be reviewed with you and your teen by a pediatric doctor. In the case of abnormal results, the teen’s existing primary care provider will be notified by Randall Children’s Hospital. The screening does not take the place of the medical examination required for all student athletes participating in a school sport.
Dr. Molly Burchell is the Clinical Vice President of Pediatrics for Legacy Health and a pediatric hospitalist at Randall Children’s Hospital.