Sports Medicine

High school physicals aim to identify athletes at risk

By Liv Osby

GREENVILLE, SC The death of a high school athlete is mercifully rare.

But when such a tragedy does occur — as it did with the collapse of a 16-year-old at Legacy Charter High School on Monday — parents everywhere hold their breath for a moment, wondering whether it could happen to their child.

Titus Martin Jr. was at the first soccer practice of the year when he crumpled to the field. Efforts of the staff and EMTs to save him were unsuccessful.

Though the cause of his death has not yet been determined, he’d had a physical just last Friday, according to the school’s executive director Fred Crawford.

Sudden cardiac death can be the cause of athletes dying on the field. But it is rare — one a year for every 200,000 young athletes in the U.S., according to the National Institutes of Health.

Among high school students, there are seven sudden deaths in 1 million boys and one in 1 million girls during organized athletic activity, according to Dr. Franklin Sease, medical director for Steadman Hawkins Sports Medicine.

Pre-participation physicals are required to play high school sports in Greenville County district schools. And Legacy Charter’s policies mirror the district’s, Crawford said.

But though they’re endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and all major medical societies, these evaluations, which consist of a thorough history and general physical exam, don’t turn up everything that could be wrong, Sease said.

“Basically, it’s a screening tool — not a diagnostic tool — to identify people who may be at risk so you can send them for further evaluation by other doctors,” said Sease, who oversees the county’s certified athletic trainers.

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