For Immediate Release
February 29, 2016
CONTACT:  Ian Jannetta (Van Hollen) – 202-225-1527
                        Aaron Clark (Fitzpatrick) – 215-579-8102
 
Van Hollen, Fitzpatrick Urge Administration to Encourage Adequate Health Screenings for High School Athletes
On Rare Disease Day, Bipartisan Group of Representatives Urges Action to Combat Preventable Deaths 
Washington, DC – Today Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen and Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA) were joined by 24 House colleagues in urging the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Education to outline how they can better encourage adequate health screening for high school athletes. Manageable conditions such as Marfan syndrome, a rare connective tissue disease, are causing 1 to 2 deaths per week among high school athletes because they go undetected during routine physical examinations.
“High school athletes represent the most alarming cohort of individuals affected by sudden cardiac death,” the Members wrote in a letter to the agencies. “In order to efficiently and effectively address this growing public health concern, we would like to know what tools and resources the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Education have available to promote adequate physicals for high school athletes.”
A recent example of the need for consistent cardiovascular screening guidelines is Isaiah Austin, who was diagnosed with Marfan syndrome when entering the National Basketball Association (NBA) Draft. He was unaware of his risk of sudden cardiac death during his entire scholastic basketball career.
Today is Rare Disease Day, a day to raise awareness about rare diseases and their impact on patients’ lives.
Van Hollen and Fitzpatrick were joined in sending the letter by Representatives Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Charles Rangel (D-NY), Donald Norcross (D-NJ), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Ted Lieu (D-CA), David Price (D-NC), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), Ron Kind (D-WI), Bill Foster (D-IL), John Lewis (D-GA), Dan Lipinski (D-IL), Susan Davis (D-CA), Collin C. Peterson (D-MN), Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Stephen F. Lynch (D-MA), Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-IL), Collin C Peterson (D-MN), Cedric Richmond (D-LA), and Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY).
The full text of the letter is below: 
Sylvia Mathews Burwell                                                        
Secretary                                                                                
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services                  
John King
Acting Secretary
U.S. Department of Education
Dear Secretary Burwell and Acting Secretary King:
Thank you for your continued leadership of your respective agencies. We are writing to voice our concern over the current state of high school athlete sports screening, in both public and private schools, across the nation. According to a number of recent scholarly articles on the subject, screening of athletes prior to participation in competitive sports through a sports physical often falls short of recommended medical guidelines. The inadequate health screening of athletes contributes annually to the untimely deaths of many young adults, especially those affected by structural cardiovascular abnormalities, such as Marfan syndrome.
High school athletes represent the most alarming cohort of individuals affected by sudden cardiac death, with an estimated incidence of once or twice per week. Structural cardiovascular abnormalities are the most frequent cause of sudden cardiac death, but when identified early and accurately are also highly preventable. A recent example of the need for consistent cardiovascular screening guidelines is Isaiah Austin, who was diagnosed with Marfan syndrome when entering the National Basketball Association (NBA) Draft and thus previously unaware that he was at risk for sudden cardiac death during his entire scholastic basketball career.
 
In order to efficiently and effectively address this growing public health concern, we would like to know what tools and resources the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Education have available to promote adequate physicals for high school athletes. Specifically, is there a set of minimum sports screening guidelines that are developed for states to potentially adopt? We hope that any screening guidelines for states developed in this regard would apply to both private and public schools so the safety of student athletes does not vary.        
Further, in the immediate future, what role can your agencies play in collaborating with stakeholders to promote public and professional awareness of the importance of adequate sports screening for structural cardiovascular abnormalities to reduce that annual number of associated preventable deaths by high school athletes?             
 
We thank you for your attention to this important matter and look forward to working with you to promote adequate physicals for high school athletes.
Sincerely,