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Alonso Death Puts Spotlight On Physicals

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  • Alonso Death Puts Spotlight On Physicals

    Copyright 2005 The Tribune Co. Publishes The Tampa Tribune
    Tampa Tribune (Florida)

    January 21, 2005 Friday
    FINAL EDITION

    SECTION: NATION/WORLD; Pg. 1

    LENGTH: 822 words

    HEADLINE: Alonso Death Puts Spotlight On Physicals

    BYLINE: DONNA KOEHN and ROZEL LEE, The Tampa Tribune

    DATELINE: TAMPA

    BODY:

    By DONNA KOEHN and ROZEL LEE

    The Tampa Tribune

    TAMPA - The sudden death of a seemingly fit teenage baseball player Wednesday
    left coaches questioning athletic policies and parents wondering whether their
    own children are at risk.

    The cause of death of 17-year- old Alonso High School junior Matthew Miulli
    is not known yet, although sheriff's officials said a pre-existing medical
    condition might have contributed to it. He died during preseason baseball
    conditioning after running a mile on a track in the football stadium.

    Although medical releases signed by a physician are required before the first
    official practice date for any sport in Hillsborough County schools, they are
    not needed for preseason workouts. It's not unusual for coaches to put
    prospective athletes through workouts that include running, weightlifting and
    endurance drills.

    Eric Coris, team physician with the sports medicine clinic at the University
    of South Florida, says that does not happen at his school.

    "At the collegiate level, the players can't step on the field without"
    medical release forms, he says. "They can't put on the uniform; they can't put
    on the pads."

    Even though they don't have to, some high school coaches require the forms
    for preseason practice.

    A close call caused Terry Brockland, Sickles High School's wrestling coach,
    to see the value in requiring physicals for conditioning.

    "I had this kid who was lethargic at workouts every day," Brockland says.
    "Once he had a physical, it turns out he had a heart condition. That's always
    every coach's biggest fear. What's the harm in getting it early, before you
    start?"

    Sudden Death Rare

    Even with a signed physical form, there are no guarantees, says Coris, who
    teaches at USF's medical school and has done research on the sudden death of
    young athletes.

    "When something like this happens, parents start being afraid Johnny is going
    to drop dead on the field," he says. "The first thing to remember is that this
    is very rare."

    Of the approximately 120 million boys and girls who participated in high
    school sports in the United States during the past 20 years, there have been
    nine deaths of baseball players. In that time, 120 football players and 80
    basketball players died, according to a study by the University of North
    Carolina at Chapel Hill.

    The leading cause of young athletes' sudden death is hypertrophic
    cardiomyopathy, a heart condition that almost never gives a warning. It's most
    common in boys of about age 17 or 18, seemingly caused when the heart "suddenly
    grows out of control," Coris says.

    "The presenting condition typically is the sudden death," he says.

    Coronary anomalies, genetic conditions also involving the heart, are the
    second-leading cause and also rarely present symptoms.

    However, there are warning signs parents should heed: chest pain,
    palpitations, unusual shortness of breath, dizziness, fainting and a family
    history of sudden death before age 50.

    Tampa pediatrician Katherine Lewis says parents must be diligent about
    disclosing any unusual symptoms.

    "I think some things just go out of their minds, things that may have
    happened a year ago," she says. "But I recently had a child coming in for a
    sports physical whose mother mentioned her [heart] condition. We did an EKG and
    found out the child had it, too."

    Some Tests Useless

    Coris says electrocardiograms and other tests can be relatively useless in
    detecting most of the causes of sudden death.

    "Not only are they not cost-effective, they have not shown to be effective in
    picking them all up," he says. "That's the scary part."

    Some coaches said they think Miulli's death demonstrates a need for certified
    trainers in Hillsborough County schools. Only Wharton High School has one.

    Tim Coker, the school's physical education department head and team trainer,
    said a trainer can teach injury prevention, care for injuries and serve as a
    final check on medical forms.

    He acknowledges this likely wouldn't have helped Miulli.

    "Something like what happened at Alonso, we can't prevent that," he said.

    He joined other coaches Thursday in expressing a hope that the school board
    would consider requiring physicals before workouts begin.

    (CHART) SUDDEN DEATHS

    * Between 15 and 20 high school athletes in the United States every year die
    sudden, initially unexplained deaths, according to research by the University of
    North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

    * A study by the university also found that nine high school baseball players
    during a 20-year period ending in 2002 collapsed and died suddenly.

    * Death rates for high school athletes in other sports were higher, with 120
    football players and 80 basketball players dying suddenly during the same
    period.

    Reporter Donna Koehn can be reached at (813) 259-8264. Reporter Rozel Lee can
    be reached at (813) 259-8425.

    RELATED STORY, Page 4: Students struggle with grief and guilt.

    Copyright © 2005, The Tampa Tribune and may not be republished without
    permission. E-mail [email protected]

  • #2
    Re: Alonso Death Puts Spotlight On Physicals

    I am the mother of Matthew Miulli who died January 19th, 2005 at Alonso High School in Tampa.
    Matt was conditioning for baseball tryouts, when he suddenly collapsed.
    It is still unbearable to live with the pain of losing my son. He was a healthy 17 year old that I dropped off at school that Wednesday morning. The next time I saw him he was on the ground, fireman trying to revive him. Despite their efforts, Matt lost his fight for his life, in front of my eyes.
    This is why physicals need to be done before any child steps out on the field to engage in any practice, tryout or conditioning. In fact, its a Florida law. If Matt would have had his physical done when it was supposed to be done, Matt would probably still be here. All the running he was doing for weeks before, was causing his heart to get enlarged. However, Matt never once showed any symtoms. Until that afternoon.

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