Screen them! - ISSA to make thorough medical checks mandatory
The man who heads the powerful high-school sports governing body, the Inter-Secondary School Sports Association (ISSA), Dr Walton Small, said that medical screening of student athletes under its auspices will be made mandatory as of the 2017 sports season.
Small was among a group of dignitaries and officials present for a special devotion at the Spot Valley High School in Montego Bay yesterday morning to reflect upon the life of the school's 17-year-old basketballer Saymar Ramsay, who died of an apparent heart attack on Friday.
"I am not sure what he died from, but we suspect his heart gave in; if that is confirmed, then it's more urgent than ever that we start serious screening of our student athletes," insisted Small.
"If you are going to be involved in any ISSA-run sporting disciplines, a stringent and thorough medical screening will have to become mandatory. It can't be just the ordinary medical examination to participate," he told The Gleaner.
Ramsay's passing is the second death of a similar nature after that of prominent St George's College Manning Cup football team captain, Dominic James, who collapsed during a Manning Cup match last month.
Like James, Ramsay was pronounced dead at hospital, leaving his family, school and sporting fraternity in deep sorrow.
Small said that a meeting between ISSA and various principals was held following James' death where guidelines were given for medical screening to become mandatory.
In addition, Small, who is also the principal at Wolmer's Boys' School, disclosed that officials from ISSA will this week be meeting with officials of the National Health Fund (NHF), with the aim of working out a bilateral agreement.
The agreement, he said, will be an important development in ISSA's drive to assist families in offsetting cost for the medical screenings, without which, students will not be allowed to participate in any of the ISSA-run sports competitions.
MORE NEEDS TO BE DONE
According to Small, much more has to be done to safeguard the lives of student athletes, and that his organisation has already signalled its intention of doing so, with the change of approach.
Ramsay was a member of the Spot Valley High Under-19 basketball squad. He scored his team's first two baskets in Friday's losing cause against Cornwall College, and later died at the Hospiten Medical Center in Rose Hall, Montego Bay.
Jerry Galloway, Dervin Brown and Alex Excell, three of his closest squad mates, said his death has cast a long shadow over the rest of their season.
"He was such a quiet and humble personality. He was, to me, the most humble student here at Spot Valley High. The team will miss him greatly. We are saddened; he was a brother to all of us," said Galloway, as he fought back tears.
Recently, Olivia 'Babsy' Grange, the minister of sports, told Parliament that discussions will be initiated with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education, Information and Youth to review policy guidelines to better protect student athletes.
The task force will monitor and enforce standards and best practices in relation to the participation of children in sports.