Cardiac arrest is the number one killer of student athletes across the country, but currently there is no policy in Pennsylvania to screen athletes and possibly prevent unnecessary death. A new bill in committee in the state Senate addresses that discrepancy.
Sponsor state Senator John Blake (D-Lackawanna) said the goal of this bill is to protect student-athletes without overstepping the government's boundaries.
"The issue for me is not to be too invasive, but to at least allow our local professionals and coaches and teachers and guidance folks and nurses and what have you in our schools to know that this is an issue that's worthy of their highest attention and to have these kids checked before they return to strenuous activity that can put them in danger," Blake said.
Senate Bill 1367 would require any student who faints while training, practicing, or competing in a sport or school sanctioned activity to be screened and cleared by a cardiologist before returning to the team. These restrictions would also apply to other strenuous school-sanctioned activities, such as a P.E. class.
Blake said his measure was prompted by multiple deaths over the past few years, including one in his senate district. 16-year-old Dan Gorczyk, a Scranton Preparatory School football player, died after he collapsed during practice in August of 2003.
A companion bill, introduced by Representative Mike Vereb (R-Montgomery County), passed the state House 199-0. Much like the companion bill, Senator Blake feels there will be little if any opposition to his legislation in the Senate.
"It's relatively non-controversial. I haven't heard any feedback from colleagues who have expressed any concerns when the co-sponsor memo went around," Blake said. "But I haven't heard anything from anybody in the Senate that sees a problem with this."
One problem with the legislation may be how cardiologists would be paid for their services. At this point in the legislative process, Senator Blake guessed that it would be the family's decision as to whether an athlete would be screened and be allowed to continue playing, or decline the screening and be disqualified from playing on an athletic team.