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Sudden death

Proposed EKG screening for student athletes spurs medical debate

2:35pm, March 21, 2014
Fennville High School basketball team

TRAGIC LOSSES  Fennville High School basketball team members stand for a moment of silence days after teammate Wes Leonard died of cardiac arrest.

With the score tied and 30 seconds left in overtime, Wes Leonard, a 16-year-old point guard for the Fennville Blackhawks, sank the winning layup that carried his team to a 57-55 victory on March 3, 2011. It was a Hollywood triumph for the final game of an undefeated season. Leonard’s teammates from his Michigan high school hoisted their star player skyward. Seconds later, to the horror of the packed stadium, the boy collapsed. Doctors at a nearby hospital soon pronounced Leonard dead of cardiac arrest.

By one often-used estimate, about 1 out of every 200,000 U.S. high school athletes dies suddenly each year, quite often in full view of shocked teammates and fans, sometimes on live television. Almost every one would have seen a doctor who used a medical history and physical to look for silent heart problems.

Under the specter of tragedies like Wes Leonard’s, however, some advocates want more rigorous tests. Their solution: Add an electrocardiogram (referred to

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