Burton ISD Student-Athletes Undergo Heart Screenings

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BURTON, Texas - Burton ISD is asking student athletes to undergo testing that could save their lives.

They want to prevent players from dying like Bremond's Jason Yancy who collapsed on the field in 1999 and died on the way to the hospital due to an enlarged heart.

They also want to prevent close calls like Rudder High School's David Wilganowski. He cheated death four years ago when he collapsed during a football game.

Doctors later diagnosed him with a heart condition.

News 3 traveled to Washington County to take a closer look at the testing which can catch heart problems that otherwise might be missed.

Student-athletes at Burton High School are stopping by the nurse's office for a potentially life saving exam.

Thursday morning they were hooked up to wires for an electrocardiogram; also known as a EKG or ECG.

8th grader Caleb Harmel plays, football, basketball and track. This was his first ever heart screening.

"It was easy and fast and didn't hurt," he said.

Burton ISD is able to get the testing through a grant from the Cody Stephens Foundation. He was the football player in Crosby, northeast of Houston, who died a few weeks before graduation from an undiagnosed heart problem.

"More than 60 percent of the kids who died from sudden cardiac arrest never show any symptoms, they look like they're perfectly healthy kids like Cody," said Mary DeBauche who is the Director of Operations for Cypress ECG Project.

In the past five years, the non-profit has gone from working in schools in just the Cypress school district to 150 school districts in Texas, including in Brazos County.

"It's actually the first county in the state that all of the public schools in that county offer electrocardiograms as well as some of the private schools as well," she said.

While students are able to get the screenings for free, teachers and staff at Burton ISD are able to have them for $15.

Even though the test is free for students, Burton Athletic Director and Football Coach Jason Hodde says it's also optional.

"We have roughly 70, 70 student-athletes girls and boys grades 7-12, which a majority of our campus here participate in some type of athletic event in any form or fashion, and was very, very pleased with the amount of kids that signed up," Hodde said.

"it makes me feel safe like nothing's going to happen to me with my heart," added Harmel.

Legislation is currently pending that would make screenings mandatory for all UIL athletes, but parents would have to pay for them.

A cardiologist will review the tests and then share the results within two days of the exam.

It's worth reiterating the director of Cypress ECG Project says all public schools in Bryan and College Station do the hearts tests.

Unlike Burton, students in Bryan have to pay $15 for the screening.

Bryan ISD will be offering athletic physicals and ECG's at Bryan High School on Wednesday, April 22nd and at Rudder High School on Wednesday April 29th. The cost for a physical is $10.