‘We need law, not luck’: Legislative push underway to require heart screenings for all Florida student athletes

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. — 9 Investigates discrepancies among local school districts on whether student-athletes receive heart screenings before being allowed to play.

Even though sudden cardiac arrest is the top killer of athletes, the Florida High School Athletic Association doesn’t require athletes to do an electrocardiogram test before competing.

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Now, legislation is calling for that to change.

In Central Florida, if a student lives in Brevard or Osceola counties, they’re required to have a heart screening before playing sports. Though some schools in other districts offer the option for such a screening, they’re not required in other local districts.

For most people with underlying conditions that could lead to sudden cardiac arrest, an ECG or EKG screening would help detect it.

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“Right now it’s pretty wild that the chances to live or die depends on the county you live in, and our pitch is we need law, not luck,” Evan Ernst, executive director of Who We Play For.

Brevard County-based Who We Play For is an organization that helps raise money for low-cost heart screenings. He’s part of a push to change Florida law to require these screenings for all student-athletes.

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“It’s so important, especially in areas where people are underserved with medical,” State Rep. Fred Hawkins said. “A lot of students, that’s the only medical care they receive that year, is when you go out for sports, so it’s just vital.”

Hawkins has bipartisan support so far for House Bill 157, but he anticipates pushback surrounding costs and liability. Even though the FHSAA recommends athletes go through heart screenings, they haven’t backed requiring it.

Karla Ray, WFTV.com

Karla Ray anchors Eyewitness News This Morning on Saturday and Sundays, and is an investigative reporter for the 9 Investigates unit.