Protecting Our Teen Athletes – ECG Screening Saves Lives

Gabby Douglas, Jordan Wieber and McKayla Maroney from this year’s US Olympic team are truly amazing athletes, captivating to watch. They are 16 and 17 years old. It’s hard to imagine that any one of these could have an underlying, perhaps lethal heart problem. It’s equally hard to believe that any of our teenagers could.

Yet every year, a hand full of high school athletes across the country suffers sudden cardiac arrest. One huge difference between our Olympic athletes and our ‘normal’ teenage athletes is that the Olympians have undergone thorough and complete physicals including ECG’s.

In researching this I found a variety of red flags including that national testing standard for teenage athletes exists but is often not followed and often ECG’s are not included due to expense. I also read of one area where local EMS is used to conduct the ECG which is then read remotely by a cardiologist. This is one way to overcome the expense and it just required asking.

I also discovered that 44 states require screening but the nature of the screening is all over the place and that many doctors simply don’t know to or include ECG’s.

It is hard to define the exact number of teens and families this impacts each year- one article suggests as many as 2000 a year. The underlying etiology is almost completely invisible. A couple of histories that may be relevant include a history of fainting by the teenager and a history of sudden cardiac arrest in family members under 50 years old. Even without these, every teen athlete should be properly screened.

Another reason that this is called invisible is that a teen may attend every practice, participate in game after game, go full out with no signs or consequences and then… sudden cardiac arrest.

The timing is now as the Olympics wind down, middle and high schools all across the country are getting ready to start which means the new athletic season. Parents need to assure that their school is following national standards for screening. Look to cardiologists within the community and the parent group as well. Ask your EMS agency to participate.

Even though most schools are required by law to have EMS and physicians attend all football games, they often are not at other events. Schools MUST have AED’s at all sporting events- even when EMS is there. AED’s and EMS need to be close to the action. Often EMS and the AED are off on the side lines. It may seem close but the reality is it may take minutes to get to the patients side. Coaches, trainers, physicians, teachers etc should all know the new hands-only CPR.

Preventing a sports related sudden cardiac arrest is the best approach. But be prepared for those rare times when sudden cardiac arrest does occur.

In researching this piece I found two relevant sites both based on personal loss:

4 Tips to Take the Stress Out of Back-To-School

While somewhere, somehow, there are families happily waltzing back into their school-year routine, most face these first few weeks with a healthy dose of anxiety. “The start of school means the return to a more rigid schedule … the return of homework. In essence, it’s about change, and change is something that is hard for most people,” says Joe Bruzzese, author of A Parent’s Guide to the Middle School Years.

Change is most dramatic for children starting a new chapter — kindergarten, middle school, a move to a new school district. But even returning to what’s familiar can rattle kids. “A child who struggled with math during the previous year can approach the new year with a good deal of anxiety. Kids who have had a rough time with their friends at the end of the year may feel like, ‘Here we go again,’” says Diane Peters Mayer, a therapist in Doylestown, Pa., and author of Overcoming School Anxiety.

So how can you help? First, be calm — even if your child isn’t. Then, try these tips for a smooth ride into the new school year:

Simplify your mornings Scrambling to get your kids — and yourself — out the door can make for a pretty frenetic scene. “It’s crucial for parents to look at their mornings and ask themselves how they can make them better,” says Peters Mayer. Do all you can the night before — make sure backpacks are packed, school forms are signed, lunches are made. You can even ask younger kids to help you set the table for breakfast the next morning. Equally important, get yourself ready the night before so you can connect with your kids in the morning. If you have young children struggling with separation anxiety, it’s the perfect time to go over with them what they can expect for the day, and what Mom and Dad will be doing too.

Create a smart yet flexible after-school routine Sit down with kids and hammer out a schedule that works for all of you. Doing homework right after school may sound good to you. But some kids really need time to decompress, so you could work it out that they play at the school playground for an hour before they begin their homework. “Also, help your child figure out where she’ll do her schoolwork,” says social worker Connie Hammer, a PCI Certified Parent Coach based in Maine. “If she wants a study area to call her own, have fun setting it up with her.” Some kids prefer to be closer to where the action is when they do their homework … and that can work, says Peters Mayer. “As long as homework is completed, be flexible. It shows them you are open to their ideas and teaches kids to be able to say ‘Yeah, I can do this,’” adds Mayer.

Reach out at school There’s no need to wait for parent-teacher conferences or even back-to-school night to meet with your child’s teacher and get the lay of the land. “Much of the anxiety kids feel is their uncertainty about what their new teachers expect of them: ‘What is she going to want, how is she going to grade me?’” explains Hammer. If your child is struggling with significant anxiety or is having social difficulties or separation issues, you may also want to meet with the guidance counselor. “The more the school knows, the better it will be for the child,” says Hammer.

Keep the lines of communication open As kids get older, they often clam up — especially if they are struggling socially or are having a problem with their grades. “Typical parent questions like ‘How was your day?’ generally get a less-than-informative response because they are just too general. Kids don’t really even know how to respond,” says Mayer. Instead, try asking specific questions that show you’re interested in what they’re learning and doing. And once they start talking, just listen. “They may begin to open up about things you didn’t expect,” says Hammer. “Let them know: ‘I believe you can do this. I know we can solve this problem together.’”

Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 08-06-2012 to 08-12-2012

Welcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world.

Each day we use Twitter to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and other caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we may miss something, but we think overall we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for our friends and colleagues who are not on Twitter (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 25 news-worthy events.

PedSafe Headline of the Week:

Is Honey a Safe Treatment for Toddlers with Cough?

Supporting Dreams…and Safety: the parent behind every Olympian

Michael Phelps. Missy Franklin. Ryan Lochte. These superb Olympic athletes have captured the attention and admiration of both adults and children. The difference is that adults understand full well the incredibly rare cocktail of talent, determination and drive that it takes to become an Olympian, much less ‘most decorated Olympian in history’ that Michael Phelps was just awarded. We know that it is a rare few people who will achieve this level and that for most of us, watching the elite perform is the closest we will ever get. A joy and inspiration in itself, but drastically different from being a participant.

Children, on the other hand, watch the performances and think, ‘I can do that…..what sport should I compete in during the next Olympics?’ They act out the competitions – at their local pool, using the sofa as gymnastics equipment and the front yard for the final soccer match or running track – their own Olympics, every bit as real and exciting to them as the real thing. As a parent you have a choice, burst their bubble or encourage them.

Whether your child is a non-swimmer, still flailing, or a talented competitive swimmer, take advantage of the buzz and excitement of the Olympics to encourage your child to spend more time in the water – not just regular, year-round swimming lessons, but also supervised play. Your child will not only become stronger, better coordinated for all sports (proven), and do better in school (also proven), but also safer as they understand how to act safely around water.

Olympians have one thing in common – someone who believes in them and has supported them as they have pursued their dream. Watch here for one of the best reminders I’ve seen of the importance of supporting a child’s dreams and enjoy watching the rest of the Games with your children!

Camping with Kids: Tips for Maintaining Safety and Sanity

This summer I decided I wanted to recreate my childhood camping experiences for my 10-year old son, Elliott. We had “camped” before – but only for a couple of days and never far from home…nothing like the weeks at a lake in the wilds of northern Canada I had known in my youth. So in late July, after stocking up on essential camping gear, we headed several hours north to Traverse Bay, Michigan for a week-long camping experience. It was a great trip, but even at my “mature” age I can still learn to appreciate my parents in a whole new way!

Our camping adventure was fairly authentic: sleeping in a tent, cooking on a propane stove, hauling water from the pump, and making s’mores over the fire pit. I admit we did cheat a little from what I remember as a kid. We had air mattresses that were indispensable, and electricity in the campsite meant the smartphones could be regularly charged and the kettle quickly ready for morning coffee and tea. Nevertheless it was a fair bit of work to get food made, dishes (and campers) cleaned, dirt tamed, and garbage out of the reach of critters. And I discovered that a 10-year old boy either doesn’t want to help at all (hiding in the tent playing on his DS) or only wants to do things involving sharp objects or fire.

So it turns out that keeping kids occupied, but safe, while camping is a challenge. Here’s what I learned from our nature adventure (sometimes through trial and error):

  • Trade help with a “boring” job for the chance to do an interesting one:
    • “…If you go fill the water container you can help me cook dinner on the propane camp stove.”
    • “Help me hang the towels on the line and then you can set up the camp fire.”
  • Show them how before turning them loose:
    • “…The propane stove works differently than our stove at home. Look, here’s a trick I figured out.”
  • But if they can prove competence and responsibility, give them some freedom:
    • “…You’ve done really well setting up and lighting the fire the past 2 nights. You’ve definitely learned a lot in Cub Scouts. Tonight you can do it all on your own.”

Note: Be sure to think ahead about campfire safety tips and talk them over with your kids. Even if you have a firepit at home there are differences when camping. For example, the campsite firepit was bigger than the one we have at home and the metal sheath got hot despite an inner layer of concrete – bad for skin and soles of shoes! Camping also generates a lot of different types of garbage, most of which shouldn’t be burned due to potential release of toxins. Make sure the kids know not to put anything other than wood or paper in the fire.

  • Trade-off activities you like or want them to engage in with some that really appeal to kids:
    • “…Ok, if the 2-hour kayak trip wasn’t your idea of excitement, I guess we can go play a round of mini golf.” (at least that will boost their mood prior to evening dinner chores!)
  • Find creative ways to mix healthy foods in with vacation and camp fare:
    • “…Tonight you can have hot dogs and s’mores, but I also made a salad from the farmers market we stopped at. And while we’re getting things ready have some of these great Michigan cherries!”

And if you’re worried about your child’s digestion while on vacation, you can use convenient Culturelle® Kids Probiotic supplements. They come in both chewable and packet forms and are highly recommended by pediatricians for support of healthy digestion and natural immune defenses. My son tried the chewable tablets and thought they tasted like a berry juice box – so you won’t need to worry about flavor complaints.


Disclaimer: I am participating in a sponsored campaign hosted by Culturelle® Kids. I received compensation for this post and was provided with Culturelle® Kids Probiotic supplement samples. While all opinions provided are my own, I make no claims about the effectiveness or any other aspects of Culturelle® Kids Chewables or Culturelle® Kids Packets products.

Aug 11th Sensory Friendly Film is Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days

Once a month, AMC Entertainment (AMC) and the Autism Society have teamed up to bring families affected by autism and with other special needs ”Sensory Friendly Movie Screenings“ – a wonderful opportunity to enjoy their favorite “family-friendly” films in a safe and accepting environment.

The movie auditoriums will have their lights turned up and the sound turned down. Families will be able to bring in snacks to match their child’s dietary needs (i.e. gluten-free, casein-free, etc.), there are no advertisements or previews before the movie and it’s totally acceptable to get up and dance, walk, shout, talk to each other…and even sing – in other words, AMC’s “Silence is Golden®” policy will not be enforced during movie screenings unless the safety of the audience is questioned.

Does it make a difference? Absolutely! “It can be challenging enough to bring ANY child to a movie theater” says PedSafe Special Needs Parenting Expert Rosie Reeves. “For a parent with a special needs child attempting an outing like this may seem overwhelming. And yet getting out, being with the community and sharing in an experience with an audience can be invaluable for just such children”.

On Saturday August 11th at 10am local time, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days will be screened as part of the Autism Society “Sensory Friendly Movie Screenings” program. Tickets are $4 to $6 depending on the location. To find a theatre near you, here is a list of AMC theatres nationwide participating in this fabulous program (note: to access list, please scroll to the bottom of the page).

Coming October 13th: Frankenweenie


Editor’s note: Although Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days has been chosen by the Autism Society as this month’s Sensory Friendly screening, we do want parents to know that it is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America for some rude humor. As always, please check the IMDB Parent’s Guide for a more detailed description of this film to determine if it is right for you and your child.