These are words none of us ever want to hear but, unfortunately, we hear them in competitive sports often. Jose Cerda was a swimmer and water polo player who died of Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) at the same pool where we practice. After Jose’s death, his mother founded the Jose Cerda Aquatic Foundation (JCAF) which supports many high school aquatic programs throughout Ohio. We learned of this foundation through swimming and water polo and were inspired by its work.
After hearing about Jose’s story, we were shocked to learn that his case was not an anomaly. A surprising statistic shows a sudden cardiac event occurs in athletes once every 3 days in the U.S.
A cardiac screening was offered at our school for anyone who wished to be tested. We were disheartened to see very few kids signed up, despite the fact that it is a quick, easy, and painless way to determine who is at risk.
The State of Ohio recently passed Lindsey’s Law, a law implemented to help raise awareness of underlying, potentially fatal heart problems in young athletes. Since these athletes look so healthy, people rarely consider that their heart could be a ticking time bomb. CPR and the rapid use of a defibrillator do not have the same effectiveness in student athletes. This makes it essential to identify kids at risk and take necessary precautions, especially during physical activity, in order to prevent deaths in young athletes.
Why don’t more kids get tested? We can think of several reasons: lack of awareness of SCA and its potentially fatal outcome, lack of concern that this could happen to them (thinking it is an anomaly), fear of testing, and price of testing. We decided that these misconceptions cannot hold them back from a potentially life saving diagnosis.
We knew if we could create a program where the testing was readily available at athletic events and it could be offered for free, or at least a reduced cost, we could help save many student athletes.
With the support of the Cincinnati Marlins and mCORE, the “Heart of a Champion Project” was born.