Updated 07/26/2012 08:53 AM
High school football players get heart screenings before season
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RALEIGH -- This year, doctors at Rex Healthcare are trying to tackle health issues before football season starts. On Wednesday, they gave free heart screenings to the players on the East Wake football team.
Doctors are hoping echocardiograms will find certain types of heart issues the players have before they hit the gridiron.
Andre Perry plays cornerback for East Wake. One day when he was in elementary school, his heart gave out on him while jumping rope with his siblings.
"I couldn't breathe or anything, so they had to rush me to the hospital."
His mother says despite regular trips to the pediatrician, Andre had a heart condition.
"And then out of the blue, they go to the emergency department and they see a valve that was supposed to have closed as an infant that never closed," said Matilda Perry.
Perry took pills for the condition and was eventually cleared to play football, but his story highlights the risk doctors at Rex are trying to prevent.
"We don't want to take care of these kids once they get ill, we want to try to prevent it altogether. So we can do cardiac ultrasound, echocardiography, quick screening, simple test, that's painless," says Tom Williams, vice president of ambulatory services at Rex Healthcare.
Experts at the American Academy of Pediatrics estimate that around 2,000 people under the age of 25 die every year from sudden cardiac arrest, and the risk is up to three times greater in athletes.
Perry said that won't make her any less concerned as a mother, but believes every little bit can help.
"I'm still going to worry, I'm one of those moms that wants to run out from the sideline when he gets tackled," she said.
Andre hopes that other teams will get the screening too.
"I really do think it's a big inspiration for other teams to try and do it," he said.
North Carolina High School Athletic Association teams start practicing Monday.