LAKELAND, Fla. — The leading cause of death of all schools, in all student-athletes, in all children, is cardiac arrest. Many can be prevented.
Once an aspiring football player at Lakeland’s Southeastern University, Xavier Hendricks was sidelined after the athletic program’s mandatory EKG caught a congenital heart defect.
"God knows what could have happened to me, I could have been playing on the field and just collapsed and lost my life that day," explains Hendrix.
I’d like to say Xavier Hendrix is "lucky" to be alive today but the organization that helped save his life says differently.
“The concept and the mantra is law, not luck, so Xavier Hendrix, one of the most incredible kids I’ve ever met, he’s alive because of law. Southeastern University realized there was a blind spot in their care and they advanced the standard of care and gave every kid a heart screening," says Evan Ernst, the Executive Director of Who We Play For.
Evan’s teammate at Cocoa Beach High School, Rafe Maccrone, went into sudden cardiac arrest before practice back in 2007, dying the next day. Like Xavier, had he been screened, the heart condition that took his life would have been detected. So, Evan’s life mission is to make sure that never happens again, to any kid.
“What we do is we deliver heart screenings, affordable heart screenings for middle school, high school, and collegiate student-athletes," explains Ernst.
There's also a new Florida Senate Bill on the table that could require all student athletes to be screened. The biggest obstacles are money and education.
Hendrix says "I think the heart is probably the most vital organ that you need to play a sport, especially at the highest level, college or high school sport. So it’s important to add in your heart to that diagnostic."
Who We Play For has donated EKG machines and they hold screenings across the state.
As for Xavier, he now wants to study Pediatric Cardiology.
"That would be my dream to give back and be the individual who reads these screenings and prevent these tragedies from happening," says Hendrix.
The push to require heart screenings is nothing new, an old senate bill on the subject from 1992 died in a committee. But technological advancements have lowered the cost and there’s new hope this year for the latest bill.
Heart screenings are painless and take only a few minutes. If they become required, the cost could be as low as $20 per test.
To find out more about Who We Play For, click here.