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Preventing Heart Problems

ERIC CHAVEZ ‘19 | STAFF WRITER • If an athlete’s passion to win isn’t one hundred percent, that is to say his or her heart isn’t in the game, that person may not be very successful. However, this isn’t to say that they wouldn’t be able to participate. If this saying is taken more literally, that an athlete’s heart isn’t in the game, then it would be a bit more problematic. There are many people whose opportunity to play sports is limited to due heart conditions. Although this is unfortunate, something as serious as a heart condition should not be taken lightly. Because of the seriousness of cardiovascular conditions, the NCAA has implemented screenings to ensure the safety of all athletes. But like all things throughout sports, there is variability in how Division I schools and how Division III schools go about this.

          At a Division I school such as Purdue University, there are enhanced ways of screening athletes for heart conditions. There are questionnaires about history of heart conditions during physicals, and on top of that, student athletes are also screened via an electrocardiogram, or EKG. This machine, according to the American Heart Association, measures the electrical activity of the heartbeat. Purdue sports has partnered with Wimbledon Health Partners which allows them easy access to these EKGs. According to PurdueSports.com, Purdue’s head team physician Greg Rowdon said, “This partnership allows us to minimize the cardiac risks of our student-athletes in regards to participation in their sports as any abnormalities that are found are furthered and evaluated or treated.” This simple, yet significant, test seems like it should be used across the board. But at a Division III school such as Wabash, it isn’t.

Like everywhere else, the trainers here at Wabash ask questions about family and personal history during physicals. The difference is that at a Division III school like Wabash, Erin O’Connor, Assistant Athletic Trainer, said, “If an athlete has admitted to history of heart conditions, either personally or in their family, will they be sent to a cardiologist. Once that athlete has been cleared by that cardiologist, he or she be allowed to participate in their respective sport.” Like most things in Division III, the reason that Wabash doesn’t do what Purdue does is because of costs. O’Connor also said, “The process of getting everyone tested using an EKG is expensive, and that’s mainly why we don’t do it.” Although Wabash and other Division III schools might not have the funds for an EKG, they are still extremely proactive in keeping their athletes healthy and ready for their respective seasons.

          Like concussions, there seems to be a gap from what Division I schools and what Division III schools do about heart conditions. Along with being provided a little more funding, perhaps more partnerships, like the one between Purdue and Wimbledon Health Partners, could be looked at throughout the Division III community.