SAN DIEGO – Earlier this year the California Interscholastic Federation passed a legislation to incorporate sudden cardiac arrest prevention protocol in high school sports programs throughout California.
According to the American Heart Association, 6,000 youth die annually from an undetected heart condition. This unchecked syndrome is called a public health crisis by the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation.
The legislation was inspired by 15-year-old Eric Paderes, who died in 2009 after his heart suddenly stopped beating.
“It feels like you’re gasping for breath and you can’t get enough,” said Carmel Valley Middle School student Jacob Li.
Li, 14, began experiencing an irregular heartbeat last year during his basketball game.
“When I was playing basketball I started running pretty hard and I got the tachycardia – the irregular heartbeat,” Lie said. “I tried to play through it but coach called a time-out and everything started closing in on me. Everything started getting black.”
Li and his parents did not know at the time, but the middle school student was born with Wolf Parkinson White disease, a condition that causes the heart to beat irregularly.
After hearing about Eric Paderes’ story, Li’s mother Diana made the decision to get her son’s heart tested.
“Many times they don’t know of an underlying heart problem and the only way we may be able to find it is by screening these kids,” said Scripps cardiologist Dr. John Rogers. “Not only does this new legislation increase awareness that cardiac arrest is a real issue among the young, but now the coaches are more aware of who is at risk on their field during sports.”
Since his diagnosis, Li has undergone surgery to correct his heartbeat and is expected to be fine.
The Eric Paredes Save a Life Foundation partnered with CIF to advance prevention protocol that has been adopted by six state legislatures and is being considered by six others.