BATESBURG-LEESVILLE, S.C. — A rural Lexington County school district is making advanced heart tests available for hundreds of student athletes following the death of a high school football player in a neighboring district.
Batesburg-Leesville educators are arranging for students to take echocardiograms next month following a parent’s plea for the potential life-saving test, The State newspaper of Columbia reported Saturday (http://bit.ly/2dpsgsl ).
“A hidden condition is something a regular physical can’t detect,” said Michelle Peterson, whose 16-year-old son plays football and baseball for Batesburg-Leesville High. “We want to make sure everybody is aware of this.”
The test, which uses ultrasound waves, recently determined her son has a thicker-than-normal heart. He’s been cleared to continue playing but must avoid overexertion and drink lots of liquid, she said.
Those results, coupled with last month’s death of 14-year-old Lewis Simpkins, led Peterson’s husband, Greg, to urge school board members to have athletes tested.
Simpkins, a sophomore defensive tackle at River Bluff High School, died of complications from an abnormal heart rhythm caused by a pre-existing heart condition. He collapsed near the end of a two-hour practice Aug. 10 and later died at a hospital.
He was the third high school football player in South Carolina to die during practice since 2010.
The South Carolina High School League, which governs high school sports, doesn’t require physicals to include echocardiograms. But the test is recommended by the University of Connecticut’s Korey Stringer Institute . Sixteen states, as well as the NCAA, have adopted the institute’s recommendations.
Batesburg-Leesville students are encouraged, but not required, to take the test. District officials hope a fundraiser covers the $50-per-test cost for athletes in seventh through 12th grades whose parents opt for the testing. With 400 student athletes, the district has set a fundraising goal of $20,000.
“After the loss of a student athlete in our neighboring district … and hearing the testimony of one our own parents, we knew this was something we needed to provide for our students,” Superintendent Randall Gary told the newspaper. His 13-year-old daughter, a volleyball player, will be among those tested.
Officials in the larger Lexington 1 school district say they’re considering whether and how to provide similar tests for student athletes at River Bluff and its four other high schools.
Information from: The State, http://www.thestate.com