And while it's not a 100-percent cure-all, it goes far beyond the previous form used by the OHSAA, says Dr. Joseph Congeni, M.D., a physician at the Sports Medicine Center at Children's Hospital of Akron.
"They had been using the same form in Ohio for more than 20 years, which was simply a card that provided very basic information," said Congeni, a member of the statewide OHSAA Medical Advisory Committee that put together the new physical examination form. "In the 1990s there had been other forms out there that were more advanced than Ohio's, and several of the states around us had introduced new forms, most notably Indiana. Indiana had three cardiac-arrest (high school athletic) deaths in one year within a half-hour radius of Indianapolis before introducing their new form."
Last fall, two high school sophomores suffered cardiac-related deaths on the football field in northeast Ohio, including Josh Miller of Barberton High in a game against Ravenna on Oct. 27. His death followed that of a Cleveland Central Catholic sophomore in a game just a few weeks prior.
Those tragic instances were not the sole reason for introducing the updated physical examination form in Ohio, which had already planned an upgrade based on the national form which came out in the early 1990s. But the shocking deaths of two young high school football players from the same region of the state just a few weeks apart made a change necessary _ immediately.
"We had two cases of sudden death in northeast Ohio last year in a span of just a couple weeks. That put a little bit of pressure on the OHSAA advisory board to make changes," said Congeni.
The new form, a full page in length, is far more involved than the previous card and must be filled out by the athlete and a parent/guardian, with a rather heavy emphasis on cardiac health. Specific heart-related questions on the new form include:
Have you ever had chest pains during or after exercise?
Have you ever had a racing of your heart or skipped heartbeats?
Have you had high blood pressure or high cholesterol?
Have you ever been told you have a heart murmur?
Has any family member or relative died of heart problems or of sudden death before age 50?
Is there a family history of heart problems in a close relative younger than age 50 (examples are enlarged heart, cardiomyopathy, long QT interval, abnormal EKG, abnormal heart rhythm)?
Have you had a severe heart infection (for example, myocarditis or paracarditis)?
Is there a family history of Marfan's Syndrome?
Has a physician ever denied or restricted your participation in sports for any heart problem?
Congeni says the new form won't guarantee the safety of all athletic participants, but it could make an appreciable dent in detecting possible risks _ and possibly save lives.
"This won't necessarily catch a problem by itself," he said. "It's like trying to find a needle in a haystack. One in 500 may have these heart conditions, and one in 2,000 may be significant enough to where it could cause them problems when they're exercising.
"Maybe we find 50 percent more than before. If so, we'd be thrilled."
Ohio high school student-athletes must receive a physical before Monday, the official start of practice for the fall sports season.
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