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Tuesday, August 09, 2011 | |  Cardiomyopathy in the News

In just a few hours, small town basketball player Wes Leonard’s name reached national recognition, but, unfortunately, out of tragedy.

Leonard collapsed and died from sudden cardiac arrest by dilated cardiomyopathy shortly after making a game-winning shot against Bridgman High School in early March.

With his memory still present in the community and the fall sports season beginning, the tragedy has parents and physicians on alert, keeping a close eye on heart health in their young athletes.

More comprehensive screenings

Liza Barry, supervisor for Lakewood Family Medicine, said the check-ups her staff gives are more comprehensive this year than ever before.

“It depends on which school, but the longest (form) is five pages long now. It used to be one,” she said.

Dr. David Haines, cardiologist for Royal Oak’s Beaumont Hospital, said restructuring of the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s physical form included taking off questions about no longer common diseases and inserting new, more relevant ones, including four questions designed to determine cardiac risk factors.

The key question asks if the athlete has had any family members unexpectedly die before age 50, he said.

“When we have a patient come in, we’re looking at that. That is a red flag,” said Karla Baker, adult nurse practitioner for Lakewood Family Medicine.

The other three questions ask about specific heart conditions, including cardiomyopathy, the condition that led to Leonard’s death.

Baker said she also has patients in for their well-child visit do something called a valsalva maneuver, in which the patient bears down as if they’re having a bowel movement so she can listen to the individual’s heart rate and pressure, which speeds up during the maneuver.

“If there’s a rhythm change, it’s a little more obvious to hear it during that kind of activity,” Baker said. “Most of the sports forms didn’t require it, and that’s something that’s been pretty universally new on all the forms.”

The changes to MHSAA’s physical form were addressed by the Michigan Sudden Cardiac Death in the Young Surveillance and Action program in September 2010, six months before the death of Leonard.

“We came up with recommendations based on a compilation of recommendations from organizations in the field,” Haines said, speaking of the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American College of Sports Medicine.

The recommendations were approved in December.

Although the MHSAA’s physical evaluation form is recommended for use by physicians and schools, schools can choose to use any version of a physical form.


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