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Florida Department of Health backs non-profit’s goal for 50,000 free cardiac screenings

Jon Santucci
Palm Beach Post

Who We Play For, an organization trying to eliminate preventable sudden cardiac death in student-athletes by providing affordable heart screenings, is aiming to do 50,000 free screenings to athletes between the ages of 10-22 over the next year.

Evan Ernst, co-founder and executive director of Who We Play For, said the organization has raised $1.5 million and received support from multiple agencies, including the NASCAR Foundation, Simply Healthcare, the Florida Legislature and Florida Department of Health.

“It’s amazing,” Ernst said. “It’s impossible, the stats around it. One in every 300 students has a life-threatening, detectable heart condition. That means there’s 167 (students) out there whose life could be saved because of this. It’s pretty shocking.”

Athletes suffering from cardiac issues has gotten increased attention over the past 18 months with the on-field collapses of Denmark soccer star Christian Eriksen and Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin, as well as USC freshman basketball player Bronny James, the son of LeBron James, collapsing on campus last month.

Plantation-American Heritage had its game against Booker T. Washington stopped Friday after a Patriots player collapsed on the sideline and received CPR on the field before he was taken to a local hospital.

Heritage also had a softball player, Claire Dunlap, collapse on the field after a game in 2009. She also received CPR and needed to be shocked three times by an AED device before her heart started again.

So, while sudden cardiac arrest in athletes is receiving greater attention, it’s not a new phenomenon.

Who We Play For was started after Rafe Maccarone, a soccer player at Cocoa Beach, suffered cardiac arrest on the field during practice and died a day later in 2007.

“Research shows there is no uptick in the numbers,” said Ernst, who was a teammate of Maccarone. “It’s just that for the first time Americans are seeing behind the curtain what parents see every day. It drives us a little crazy.  … This has been the case for decades.”

Florida Department of Health backs non-profit’s goal for 50,000 free cardiac screenings
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