After NFL player Damar Hamlin passed out, the safety of a Texas student is back in the spotlight.

Buffalo Bills defenseman Damar Hamlin’s horrific injury on Monday Night Football has brought renewed attention to sports safety in Texas. The state helped pave the way for student-athlete safety after the Legislature passed a law in 2007 requiring every school to have an automated external defibrillator, or AED, on its campus, advocates say.

“Texas has done an amazing thing that most states don’t: it has enabled schools to be equipped with these lifesaving devices,” said Martha Lopez-Anderson, executive director of Parent Heart Watch, a national organization that advocates for ways to prevent sudden cardiac death among America’s youth. . Members of Parent Heart Watch testified in support of the law in Texas in 2007.

Medics used an AED and performed cardiopulmonary resuscitationUsed an AED and performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation to help resuscitate Hamlin before an ambulance took him to the hospital, which is believed to have saved the life of a 24-year-old man after he lost consciousness. As of Wednesday afternoon, he remained in critical condition but showing signs of improvement, the Buffalo Bills said in a statement. statement. statement.

But an injury to Hamlin, who lay motionless after he collapsed after a wide receiver tackle, also prompted discussion of what else can be done to prevent student-athletes from dying prematurely.

The Texas law was passed after Matt Nader, a football player at Westlake High School in Austin, collapsed during a football game after suffering a cardiac arrest. It’s unclear how many times the AED has been used since 2007, but the Collegiate Interscholastic League, the governing body for school sports and other competitions, said it has been used five times since the 2019-2020 school year. The reporting requirement, effective in 2019, requires all UIL member schools to submit a report after using an AED “in connection with any UIL event, practice or competition using the online reporting form available on the UIL website.”

While she praised the Texas law, Lopez-Anderson said states need to do more to prevent tragedies in high school sports.

“Not only is it important to highlight the importance of these lifesaving devices being available and properly maintained, but I think it’s really very important to highlight the importance of CVD emergency plans that are written and well practiced.” she said. “So what happens when an AED is used and a cardiac emergency occurs? What if you don’t have a plan? How do people know what to do?

According to the vendors’ websites, the batteries and electrodes in the AED also need to be replaced after a few years. Pads can last between two and five years depending on the brand, according to The AED Source, while batteries have a longer shelf life.

Lopez-Anderson said it’s not clear if schools are taking those requirements into account.

“Not only is it important to have access to these life-saving devices, [but] in good condition,” she said.

Demand for additional screenings

Dr. Alexander Postalyan, a cardiologist at the Texas Heart Institute who has been involved in screening studies for high school athletes, said more screening is needed to detect heart disease. He told The Texas Newsroom it’s still unclear whether Hamlin’s injury is the result of a pre-existing condition or a collision that caused his heart to stop beating after being hit, a condition called commotio cordis.

He said that most heart-related injuries are not the result of a single blow or blow to the chest.

“Most cardiac arrests that happen to athletes are due to a pre-existing condition that worsens with exercise,” he said.

Postalyan said screenings do not always detect heart disease and there is currently debate in the medical community about which tests should be done.

“There is a lot of debate in the medical community about who should be tested and with what tests, because some tests may not be good enough to detect the disease,” he said.

“We were actually involved in a study screening high school athletes with cardiac MRI, which would show a lot of these high-risk CVDs,” he continued. “The thing is, once you start doing population assessments, it’s basically how many tests you’ve done and how many lives they’ve saved. You have to test a lot of people to save a life. So perhaps the answer lies in targeted screening of the sports that pose the greatest risk.”

When asked about Postalyan’s views on supplementary screening, UIL pointed to a 2013 requirement that students and parents sign a form each year that explains symptoms of heart disease and provides other medical information about heart conditions. A UIL spokesperson said heart health and screening issues have been referred to its Medical Advisory Committee, which includes physicians and trainers.

For Lopez-Anderson, who lost her 10-year-old son to an undiagnosed heart disease in 2004, “pie in the sky” would be a universal test for every schoolchild, regardless of whether he plays sports.

“We need to change the standard of care,” she said. “We need it to be unrelated to whether someone agrees or refuses [for screening], every child should have it, not just athletes. Every young person should be tested. In an ideal world…we test children at birth, when they enter school, middle school, and high school.”

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Any advice? Email Julián Aguilar at [email protected] You can follow Julian on Twitter. @nachoaguilar.

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