POSTED: Saturday, September 15, 2012 - 7:00pm
UPDATED: Saturday, September 15, 2012 - 7:04pm
BATON ROUGE, LA(NBC33) — Playing sports like football can be a great way to get your heart pumping, but if you have an undiagnosed heart defect it could be deadly.
That's why a group of Baton Rouge Doctors teamed up with the Catholic High School football team to test the student athletes for faulty tickers.
"You are more worried about your assignments and your game plan, so you don't even think about that too much," said Senior runningback Khalil Thomas. "It's kind of in the back of your mind sometimes."
Thomas spent his friday night along side his teammates trying to bring the bears a big win, but Saturday morning he and his teammates went to get their heart's checked out.
"It gives me one less thing to worry about, because you're running around and stuff. You never know what's going to happen. You could dehydrate and cramp up, or your heart can stop," said Thomas
Dr. Michael Crapanzano and the Pediatric Cardiology Associates Clinic hosted a free health screening for the athletes. Dr. Crapanzano says he got the idea for the program after an incoming freshman football player at Dutchtown High School suddenly died from cardiac arrest, before he ever got to take the field.
"30 percent of kids present with sudden death as their first symptom," said Crapanzano.
Doctors checked the players for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
"An athlete can have a thick heart, and if that's present it puts you at risk for sudden death," said Crapanzano.
It's a condition not easy to spot during a routine doctor visit.
"It's a silent killer," said Crapanzano. "It's very difficult to diagnosis without tests, much as if you get a mammogram it will be an early detector for breast cancer. You have to get the test to be certain."
Thomas says once he and his teammates get their results the team will get to play with new peace of mind.
"It'll be in the back of my mind," said Thomas. "I don't need to worry about my heart, I know my hearts good in good health. "
The program was open to Catholic High School freshmen and varsity football teams. Around 140 students had the opportunity to participate in the tests.