Pasadena Unified Partners With Huntington Medical Research Institutes To Save Lives Of Student Athletes

23 Sep Pasadena Unified Partners With Huntington Medical Research Institutes To Save Lives Of Student Athletes

This fall, every high school student athlete in the Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) will be eligible to receive a free head and heart Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan. PUSD has partnered with the Huntington Medical Research Institutes (HMRI) to conduct a cutting-edge research program focused on diagnosis and prevention of sudden cardiac death and traumatic brain injury in student athletes.  This program is motivated by increased public recognition of traumatic brain injuries by the National Football League and others and the deaths of students across the country due to sudden cardiac death. This study is a first for Pasadena high school athletes.

“I am extremely excited to partner with the Huntington Research Institute to provide this service to PUSD students and I believe this program is beneficial for our athletes,” said PUSD Interim Superintendent Dr. Brian McDonald.  “As someone who witnessed the sudden heart related death of a childhood friend immediately after a soccer game, I understand the importance of preventative care to protect our student athletes.  We are grateful to HMRI for their willingness to include us in this important endeavor.”

Student athletes will be eligible to receive a free cardiac MRI designed to identify an inherited heart condition that predisposes a student to sudden cardiac death (SCD), a non-traumatic, non-violent, unexpected event resulting from the cessation of the heart beating within six hours of a previously witnessed state of normal health.  People at risk for SCD are usually without symptoms and unaware that they have a predisposing condition. An Altadena resident and former PUSD student who was attending Harvard-Westlake succumbed to SCD last year. Devastating events such as this could potentially be prevented by the simple scan offered to PUSD athletes.

“I am excited to be able to offer this new benefit to our PUSD athletes,” said Ann Rector, PUSD Coordinator of Health Programs. “This study has the potential of not only saving a life, but also helping researchers understand sports-related trauma.”

PUSD athletes can also receive brain scans designed to diagnosis and prevent brain injuries resulting from a concussion.  Concussions are traumatic brain injuries that can lead to chronic cognitive and neurobehavioral difficulties especially if the concussions are recurrent. Although the majority of athletes who experience a concussion are likely to recover, an unknown number of these individuals may experience difficulties related to recurrent injury, commonly referred to as Post-Concussion Syndrome.

Two MRI screening exams, an initial screening early in the school year and a follow-up at the end of the school year, are available to student athletes free of charge.  Any athlete who experiences a concussion while participating in a PUSD sporting event will also receive a follow-up scan to see how the injury has affected the brain.  Participation in both the brain and heart scans is optional and will supplement the annual physical exam that athletes receive. Parents should be aware that MRI does not involve radiation exposure and the scans are very safe.

“HMRI’s expertise in non-invasive imaging is an important resource for PUSD and we are pleased to offer these normally expensive studies to young athletes at no cost to the student or the district,” said HMRI’s Chief Scientific Officer, Marie Csete MD, PhD. “HMRI scientists will also benefit from studying students because there is insufficient data about the incidence of cardiac abnormalities that could lead to SCD.  Importantly, HMRI is at the forefront of understanding how imaging can be used to diagnose and follow patients after they sustain a head injury, but we have focused on older patients to date, so important information about trauma to young brains can help fill in the scientific picture and, we hope, help future athletes.”

For more information about these programs, contact Ann Rector at rector.ann@pusd.us