10.25.13 1019Teen Athlete Cardiac Screening (TACS)

One of the purposes of the David Heller Foundation is to support teen athlete cardiac screening (TACS). TACS was co-founded by the David Heller Foundation and Legacy Health System in 2006. The overall purpose of TACs is to create awareness about the importance of maintaining a healthy heart in active athletic teenagers.

In order to participate in the screening, teenage athletes must be age 13-19 and compete in an aerobic sport either through a club, school or independent organization. The program aims to educate student athletes, their parents and the public on the importance of screening to detect cardiac conditions such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy; the most common cause of sudden death in athletes.

Past

The screening was held annually through 2014 and included a patient family history, height, weight, blood pressure, body mass index, ECG and a cardiac exam. The screenings were performed by an all-volunteer staff of pediatric cardiologists, pediatricians, nurse practitioners, ECG technicians, and lay volunteers. The program was unique in several ways. Students were required to attend with a parent who could help answer family history questions since the family history is the most important factor in identifying potential athletes at risk. Another unique feature was that the screening was staffed with pediatric cardiologists who interpreted the results of the ECG’s on site and gave immediate feedback to the athlete and parent if further testing outside the screening was necessary. A physician spoke with each athlete at the end of the screening and combined information from all of the screening stations to determine if the athlete had been cleared or not. This immediate feedback provides assurance to families whether or not they have been cleared.

Present

In 2015 the TACS committee focused its effort on turning this event into a program. The foundation, along with Legacy Randall’s Children Hospital has created a “how to” tool kit that could be used to learn how to host a screening in areas around the state. It is a goal to establish best practices that can be shared for the consistency of screening athletes to ensure teenagers in our communities play safe with a healthy heart. The tool kit includes comprehensive information on how to put on a screening. It is hoped that other communities outside of the Portland area will be able to develop screenings in their own community with the intellectual knowledge provided by the TACs program. The TACs toolkit also includes a portable defibrillator so that this life saving device is available to students wherever they may travel.

The TACs program is also now focusing its efforts on bringing this toolkit and training to the physician offices where the majority of sports physicals occur each year. By doing this, we can ultimately reach more students than can be accomplished through periodic screenings. We realize that cardiac screening is only one aspect of a complete physical exam and that this screening is best accomplished in a comprehensive physical provided by the student’s personal physician.

The David Heller Foundation is happy to help start a cardiac screening program in your community. Contact us at davidhellerfoundation@gmail.com

Future

The Foundation’s vision of the TACS program includes the following goals:

  • To develop a comprehensive pre-participation cardiac screening program for area high school aged students in an effort to identify and reduce the risk of cardiac diseases that could impact an athlete’s ability to participate in sports.
  • To provide community outreach to communities throughout the state of Oregon.
  • To work in coordination with local high school athletic directors in helping to educate students and parents about risk factors for cardiac disease which may impact a student’s ability to participate in a sport.
  • To be pioneers in setting new standards for athletic screening criteria, and raising awareness of the importance of heathy hearts in our young athletes.