A recent tragedy, more highly publicized than similar that have occurred in other times and places in Michigan, has caused caring people to look at what reasonable things could be done differently to further reduce the already small number of deaths that occur in relation to student sports participation. Some folks have been talking about pre-participation screening.
The MHSAA’s requirement is that each participant every year must pass a physical examination. The MD, DO, Physician’s Assistant or Nurse Practitioner who actually conducts the examination must sign a statement that the student is physically able to compete in athletic tryouts, practices and contests. A student who participates without such a form on file with the school’s administration is an ineligible athlete, and any contest in which he or she participates is forfeited.
The MHSAA provides a sample form online that has been developed by and has the support of a large task force of medical authorities who collaborated through the Michigan Department of Community Health.
The MHSAA also provides in hard copy a shorter form which has been expanded for 2011-12 to include many of the recommendations of the MDCH.
It is still permissible and often happens that schools utilize a different form, or that parents will request and pay for additional pre-participation screening for their children.
As with all beneficial measures to reduce participation risks for student-athletes, many considerations must be balanced. Very many Michigan residents do not have affordable access to expensive medical procedures; and therefore, requirements to perform electrocardiograms or ultrasounds or baseline testing for concussions would be out of their reach. We provide athletic opportunity for all students: suburban, urban, rural and remote kids, as well as the children of migrant workers and refugees, all of whom enjoy many benefits of participating in school sports but many of whom have limited access to limitless medical screening.
If a parent believes more screening is necessary for a child, that family should seek it. If the examining medical professional believes more screening is necessary before certifying a student to compete in athletic tryouts, practices and contests, that medical professional should not sign the form until those additional tests are performed.
For me, this topic is not merely theory or pontification. My perspectives on this topic are shaped by my professional responsibilities to represent a diverse population across a huge state, as well as my personal experience of having a son participate in high school soccer and wrestling with a partially repaired heart defect. How much testing and how much risk in continuing to participate are decisions that are better left to the families involved than anyone else.
(Please see our blogs of March 30 and May 21, 2010, for earlier discussions of this topic. Visit our Health & Safety Resources for more information on this and other topics related to medical aspects of sports.)