died from undiagnosed, underlying heart conditions. Hank
Gathers’ death in 1990 shocked the college basketball
world when he collapsed on the court, was taken to the
hospital and died there shortly after. Three years later,
Lewis suffered a sudden cardiac arrest at age 27 while
practicing for his next season with the Boston Celtics.
Both of these top-flight athletes had HCM that led to their
deaths from sudden cardiac arrest. These two men just
scratch the surface of a condition that typically flies under
the radar for the majority of people. We have a silent killer
on the loose and a serious problem on our hands.
How much of a problem? It is estimated that more
than 7,000 people younger than 18 experience an out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrest and common causes of
sudden death in competitive young athletes include HCM
(26 percent), and coronary artery anomalies (14 percent).
So how do we keep as many young athletes as possible
from becoming one of these statistics? How do we stop
these senseless and sometimes preventable deaths?
I would like to work both from the ground up and
the top down on this issue. According to one survey, 72
percent of young people who had SCA had recognizable
symptoms that went unnoticed. In other words, nearly
three-quarters of them were symptomatic! So here is
one place we can make a change: Educate our coaches,
teachers and parents to recognize the symptoms of
underlying heart conditions. We can change this. We can
save the lives of student-athletes.
I am working on legislation in my home state of Ohio
that would require coaches, educators and parents to
understand symptoms of underlying heart conditions. For
example, fainting during exercise is a major warning sign.
I fainted multiple times, and my coaches and teachers
attributed it to dehydration or heat, so I was not removed
from the practice or event.
My vision is to bring this legislation to Ohio, and
then work to make it nationwide, sweeping legislation
to impact and potentially save young people with
symptoms. At this
very moment all 50
states have some
form of youth sports
laws in place, most
of which require
youth coaches and
when they have
symptoms. We are
protecting our kids’
heads but what
about their hearts?
We can prevent a
significant number of these tragedies through education.
I am proposing a budget-neutral bill in Ohio that would
require students and parents to read and sign a preparticipation document that sets forth the warning signs
of SCA. It also requires coaches to watch an eight-minute
educational video annually, sign off on understanding the
symptoms of an undiagnosed heart condition, and commit
to pulling a child showing those symptoms from exercise
or competition. This reform can save many of these
student-athletes who are symptomatic before they have
a fatal cardiac incident. Versions of a bill like this have
already been passed in several states, and I plan to make
I’ve walked in the shoes of these kids. I have heart
disease, and it could have taken my life had it not been
found. I was lucky, but we can change things so that other
young people won’t have to rely on luck. I encourage you
to write your state senators and representatives. (If you
live in Ohio, write Senator Cliff Hite. I’m working with
him leading our charge in the Ohio State Senate.)
I was lucky, but we can
change things so that
other young people won’t
have to rely on luck.
Ever since she was a child, dancing has
been a passion for Lindsay.