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Following 13-yr-old’s collapse, medical experts emphasize importance of pre-participation exams

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- A 13-year-old middle school student was still fighting for his life Wednesday night, after going into full cardiac arrest while running in the Blue Valley Intra-district Cross Country meet Tuesday.

Because of the incident many parents are now concerned about the possibility of a medical emergency happening to their children.

Disbelief is the best way to describe the feeling at Overland Trial Middle School. How could a seemingly fit 13-year-old student athlete have a cardiac arrest? FOX 4 spoke to some parents and friends of the eighth grader, and found lots of concern and tears.

"It's heartbreaking, you always think it's going to happen somewhere else or you hear it on the news but you never think it's going to happen to somebody that you know,” said one parent, Tracey Meade.

Friends of the 13-year-old Overland Trial Middle School student, who went into cardiac arrest at the cross country meet Tuesday, describe the boy as nice, smart, strong and athletic.

"He's a friend of mine and I worry about my friends a lot,” said student Jessica Meade.

Students took time from their normal class day on Wednesday to make signs of encouragement for the boy, who at last check was still in critical condition.

"We just write signs saying praying for you and hope for the best, stuff like that,” Owen Chaffin, Friend

Doctor Greg Canty is the Medical Director for Sports Medicine at Children’s Mercy Hospital. He says these events are rare.

"At the high school level, estimates vary, but they estimate it could be anywhere from 1 in 23,000 to 1 in 300 thousand,” Dr. Canty.

Even with that low probability, it is nothing to ignore.

"Cardiac events are the leading cause of non-traumatic deaths in youth sports,” he said.

In both Kansas and Missouri, student athletes must have a pre-participation exam, including about a dozen questions like; have you ever passed out during exercise? Abnormal shortness of breath? Or have any family members under 50 had cardiac problems?

"All of those things are questions to try to see if there's a genetic predisposition for a cardiac arrhythmia or some sort of heart disease that could be picked up on the screening exam,” said Dr. Canty.

Unfortunately, Dr. Canty says, many of the precursors to a heart attack my not be present, so it is important have someone who knows CPR and an AED quickly accessible.

"For each minute that goes by, your chance of survival goes down by 10 percent,” he said.

"I just I'm I don't know what to say, I can't believe it's happened. I feel awful for him and his family,” said parent Colbi Chaffin.

Dr. Canty stresses the importance of having your child's physical done by someone who is well trained in cardiac exams.