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Concerns around heart-screening snub

Published:Saturday | January 21, 2017 | 12:00 AMShayne Fairman

Local sports medicine specialist Dr Paul Wright is expressing concern that not enough student athletes have conducted heart-screening exercises.

Approximately 100 student athletes have been screened by the Heart Foundation of Jamaica since last October.

For athletes who compete in Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) competitions, the cost for a complete Heart Foundation of Jamaica medical is $2,500 and includes blood test, heart test, physical examination, and vision test.

"We have screened about 100 athletes so far, and no it is not enough. There is a flurry when someone dies, and then it stops," Wright told The Gleaner.

He also strongly condemned arguments that screening student athletes costs too much, noting parents should place a priority on the procedure.

"It's falling down with the parents, they saw a footballer drop dead on television, but they are not paying enough attention to screening until somebody dies," Wright lamented.

Last year, St George's College football captain Dominic James collapsed and died during a Manning Cup game. Spot Valley's Saymar Ramsey collapsed and died after representing his school in a basketball game last year, while Cavahn McKenzie, a St Jago High distance runner also collapsed and passed away while competing at the NACAC Cross Country Championship in Trinidad and Tobago in 2014.




Meanwhile, ISSA Competitions Director George Forbes, who noted that the organisation was expecting to meet with principals to reinforce the importance of screening, also underlined that they are working on more forceful measures.

"All schools have been asked to do their medicals, before the start of the season," Forbes outlined.

On the matter of financing, Forbes made it clear that ISSA cannot help individual schools fund the screening exercise. Instead, they try to put on seminars and conferences to educate the athletes and coaches.

"We (ISSA) don't deal with poor schools or rich schools, schools are schools. It is instructed to all schools to do medicals," he assured.

While ISSA has no current mechanism to force schools to do screening, Forbes assured that they are working on a document for them to sign.

"There is a form that is being developed for that, we have told the schools that this is the way to go, and they have to take the medicals important," he continued.

Less than a month into the current season, the competitions officer is crediting some meet directors for not having athletes "overwork" by doing more than one events.

"I can't speak for all track meets but all we are trying to do is to educate and sensitise so that everybody understand medical is most important, we lost two athletes last year and we can't afford to lose any this year," added Forbes.