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HEADLINE: Deaths propel heart tests for N. Fulton students

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Tim Stewart Find out more about Tim Stewart
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  • HEADLINE: Deaths propel heart tests for N. Fulton students

    Copyright 2003 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
    The Atlanta Journal and Constitution

    May 18, 2003 Sunday Home Edition

    SECTION: Metro News; Pg. 1F

    LENGTH: 644 words

    HEADLINE: Deaths propel heart tests for N. Fulton student-athletes

    BYLINE: CHRIS REINOLDS

    SOURCE: AJC

    BODY:
    Athletes at a north Fulton County high school where a football player
    recently died were tested for enlarged hearts Saturday as part of a campaign
    that organizers hope spreads across Georgia.

    Heart problems are the leading suspects in four recent deaths of young
    athletes in metro Atlanta. Doctors say it's usually one of two defects --- HCM,
    or hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (an enlarged heart) or abnormal coronary
    arteries.

    The heart screening is the brainchild of Tom Vardase, producer of Georgia
    Public Television's "Prep Sports Plus." Vardase, who had a heart attack in 1999,
    said he wanted to do something when he saw healthy athletes dying.

    "It's preventable, and it breaks my heart," said Vardase, who has formed a
    nonprofit sports foundation.

    Heart Screens for Teens, a metro Atlanta partnership between Georgia
    Pediatric Cardiology, Ultrascan Inc. and Vardase's charity, will provide the
    service at cost for $58. Normally the screens can cost between $800 and $1,500.

    The first heart screening event was held Saturday at Alpharetta's
    Chattahoochee High School, where 17-year-old Ryan Boslet died during practice
    Feb. 20.

    Ryan's dad, Chris Boslet, said he didn't realize his son suffered from HCM.

    "He had physicals all the time," said Boslet, who also has a 15-year-old son
    in football. "Having it so kind of out of the blue has been very difficult to
    understand. We feel so good about what is happening with heart screening. We're
    looking at this and saying maybe good can come from this.

    "It's a pretty small price to pay for piece of mind."

    The Boslets have helped set up a memorial fund through Bank of America called
    the "Ryan Boslet Heart Screens for Teens." As news of the screening spreads,
    Boslet said he hopes the fund will help pay for athlete testing in poor areas.

    Screens have flaws

    The ultrasound image of the heart is very specific for ruling out the
    condition, said Eduardo Montana, the doctor who is overseeing the Heart Screens
    program. The condition can also sometimes be identified through family history
    or previous symptoms. However, Montana noted some children with an enlarged
    heart don't have any risk factors.

    Sudden cardiac death "is only rare until it happens to your child," Montana
    said. "This doesn't replace comprehensive screening, but we feel this is better
    than nothing. If we can diagnose one kid with HCM, it's worth doing."

    Some doctors are against mass screening.

    "I don't think that's the way to go. You cannot write them a note saying
    you're 100 percent something is not going to happen," said Dr. Robert Campbell,
    medical director of the Sibley Heart Center at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.

    He added that if echocardiogram screens would solve the sudden death problem,
    it would be mandated statewide.

    The screen can give false positives and negatives as well as miss other
    serious problems, he cautioned.

    "I'd hate for families to think there is a magic bullet," he said.

    Campbell said a pre-participation form is helpful. The Georgia High School
    Association is working on a standardized form for athletes that includes key
    questions about family members younger than 50 who may have died of unexplained
    cardiac arrest.

    Another tool

    Cliff Lorick's two sons took the heart screen on Saturday with no problems
    detected. Jeffrey Lorick, 15, and Clifton Lorick, 16, both play varsity football
    and other sports.

    "My sophomore was three feet from Ryan. It shook him up a lot," Cliff Lorick
    said.

    While neither boy has a family history of heart problems, Lorick said the
    screens are another information tool.

    "We don't think you can ever eliminate the risk from any contact sport,"
    Lorick said. "I've always thought the physicals they took before playing were of
    marginal benefit. So I'm pleased to see something more technologically
    advanced."

    GRAPHIC: Photo: Near her late grandson Ryan Boslet's picture, Carol Boslet signs
    up Kelsey Lowdy for heart screening Saturday. / JOHN AMIS / Special; Photo:
    Scott Cameron performs an ultrasound of Chattahoochee High freshman Matt
    Tieslau's heart Saturday. / JOHN AMIS / Special

    LOAD-DATE: May 18, 2003
    Thanks, Tim
    Forum Administrator

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