To the applause of a school auditorium filled with families who have lost their children to sudden cardiac arrest and families whose children’s lives have been saved by preventive heart screenings, Gov. Tom Corbett signed into law Rep. Mike Vereb’s (R-Montgomery) House Bill 1610, making Pennsylvania the first state in the country to enact a law protecting student athletes from the potentially fatal condition.
“The message that we often send our kids during sporting events is to play through the pain and fatigue, but many people don’t realize that advice can be fatal. We learned this with concussions and it’s even more vital with children’s hearts,” said Vereb. “My legislation takes a giant first step to protect our children from sudden cardiac arrest by ensuring that every coach in the state will be aware of the warning signs of sudden cardiac arrest, and will be in a position to take appropriate steps to protect our student athletes’ hearts.”
This new law, which is Vereb’s first signed bill, will ensure that coaches and athletic directors are properly educated about sudden cardiac arrest and trained to watch out for the condition’s symptoms. Parents of student athletes also will receive information about the nature and warning signs of the disease.
More specifically, coaches, parents and students will be required to take online training about the conditions requiring players to be removed from the playing fields if they show symptoms. The free informational training for coaches and sports officials will be available online at the state Department of Health’s website.
If a student athlete would show symptoms of sudden cardiac arrest, under this law, he or she will be removed from play or practice until the athlete is evaluated and cleared by an appropriate medical professional.
Alongside the governor and Vereb at the bill signing were Darren and Phyllis Sudman, who turned the loss of their infant son Simon in 2005 into action with the creation of Simon’s Fund. It was the Sudmans who first brought the issue of sudden cardiac arrest in children to Harrisburg.
“This law gives parents, students and coaches information we didn’t have seven years ago when our son, Simon, died suddenly,” said Darren Sudman, co-founder of Simon’s Fund. “We never knew that little hearts could just stop beating; we never knew that kids could unexpectedly drop dead while they were having fun.”
Simply put, this law raises awareness about the warning signs and conditions that lead to sudden cardiac arrest to prevent other families from experiencing the loss, grief and pain with which the Sudman family was faced.
“This law will help to ensure that elation and joy are not replaced by shock and horror on our playing fields and courts. We are proud to live in a state that has made itself the leader on this issue; we hope others will follow our lead,” said Sudman.
“I was very proud to present a final product of my sudden cardiac arrest legislation to an auditorium of students and their families who were impacted by this disease,” said Vereb. “From the beginning of this legislation’s journey, I hit the ground running and stayed committed to having it signed into law. It’s my hope that other states will look at Pennsylvania as a model state and enact similar legislation of their own.”