On Wednesday, Carthage College in Kenosha is offering free heart screenings for athletes courtesy of the Max Schewitz Foundation, a group that strives for EKGs to be part of required sport physicals.
Sudden cardiac deaths among athletes has health groups and sports organizations debating the cost and benefits of requiring EKGs – a test that records the heart's electrical activity. As the NCAA considers whether to require more extensive heart screening for athletes, Carthage is one of a few schools that have begun doing it independently.
It's estimated that nearly 540 student athletes will get their hearts checked on Wednesday, says Jacob Dinauer, head athletic trainer at the private liberal arts and science college.
“I don't believe necessarily that college athletes are at any more risk than general population, but every year I read about in my journals that there are student athletes who die during athletics,” said Dinauer. “So it’s something people are talking about.”
The Max Schewitz Foundation is paying for the EKGs and echocardiograms. The foundation’s namesake is a student athlete who died unexpectedly from cardiac arrythymia in 2005 at the age of 20.
“When we think of people dying from cardiac disease, we picture older people,” said Mary Beth Schewitz, Max’s mother, in a YouTube video . “Seldom do we think of a young vibrant adult. How could a young person die suddenly from heart problems?”
Mary Beth says she wanted to offer EKGs at Carthage because she took classes there, and has been contacted by area families who lost sons and daughters because of hidden heart problems.
“It means a lot to a lot of different people for different reasons,” she said. “But you know, these kids at Carthage are very lucky.”
The foundation has paid for nearly 45,000 heart screening tests. Most of the tests have been done on high schoolers.