It’s been a tough week. Three student athletes collapsed and were not able to be saved.
Two students were only 13—in middle school. One was preparing for his first college action as a football player. All had passed their physicals and were cleared to play.
13-year-old Felipe Andres De La Cruz collapsed during a soccer game in California and later died. There were no signs or warnings, the coaches said. Felipe’s family is waiting to find out the cause of death, but the teen’s father said his son had never experienced any heart problems.
Multi-sport athlete Zachary Sealey, also 13 years old, collapsed and died suddenly between classes at his middle school in Florida. Though teachers and administrators responded quickly by performing CPR, Zachary was not able to be revived. “He was very athletic, active, outgoing—just a great kid to have on your team,” said South Beach Seahawks Youth football preside John Wallace.
Teammates, students, faculty, coaches, and administrators came together to mourn the death of Stetson University football player Nick Blakely. The 19-year old had told athletic trainers he wasn’t feeling well during football practice before collapsing. His heart rate was reportedly unusually high. He did not survive, despite efforts to revive him through CPR and AED use. Blakely’s former coaches said he was “healthy as an ox.”
We don’t yet know much about why these young athletes died suddenly and too soon. They all were cleared to play sports, but that doesn’t mean an underlying heart condition can be ruled out. According to published studies, pre-participation screening only catches 3-15% of cardiac problems. 40% of athletes with underlying cardiac conditions experience sudden cardiac arrest outside of physical activity (Journal of the American College of Cardiology). And there is evidence suggesting that AEDs may be less effective in younger athletes for the termination of fatal arrhythmias, compared to older patients with coronary artery disease (British Journal of Sports Medicine/New England Journal of Medicine).
PRIMARY PREVENTION is the most important thing we can do to help protect young athletes. Detection leads to knowledge. Knowledge leads to action. And action leads to prevention.
Please make sure your students, athletes, children are safe. Get them tested for heart conditions.