MDCH Supports Resolution Declaring April "Michigan Student Athlete Cardiac Awareness Month"

Contact: James McCurtis, Jr. (517) 241-2112
Agency: Community Health

April 22, 2010

LANSING - The Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) recognizes April as Michigan Student Athlete Cardiac Awareness Month, which is a statewide effort to increase awareness and prevention of sudden cardiac arrest and related causes in students.

"Sudden cardiac arrest among our young people, especially those who are seemingly in great physical shape, is sad, puzzling and tragic," said MDCH Director Janet Olszewski. "It is important to raise awareness about this phenomenon because having healthy young people suffer from cardiac arrest and dying in their prime is a significant concern for public health."

The MDCH has investigated cases of sudden cardiac death in young residents of Michigan. Review of these actual cases has identified 21 action steps to decrease the risk of such tragic events. The 21 action steps have been grouped into five major areas, which include pre-participation sports screening, provider education and public awareness of risk factors, public awareness of cardiac symptoms and CPR/automated external defibrillator (AED) training, emergency response, and medical examiner protocols. Four of the 21 action steps are highlighted in the recently adopted Resolution introduced by State Senator Martha G. Scott (D-Highland Park) to recognize April as "Michigan Student Athlete Cardiac Awareness Month."

As noted in the resolution, it is beneficial to have CPR/AED training and drills so proper action can be fast and effective when a cardiac emergency event occurs. It is also critical to call 9-1-1 during a cardiac emergency.

Health care professionals should conduct a careful family and personal history to screen for sudden cardiac risk factors and symptoms. If risk factors and/or symptoms are identified, following through with appropriate diagnosis, management, and care is necessary. Pre-participation sports physicals and back-to-school physicals are excellent opportunities to be on the alert for risk factors and symptoms.

MDCH surveillance efforts identified 175 sudden cardiac deaths occurring in Michigan youth, ages 5-19 years old, between 1999 and 2006.

Michigan families who have had a student athlete die of sudden cardiac arrest are especially supportive of the identified action steps. Randy Gillary's 15-year-old daughter, Kimberly Anne Gillary, died as a result of cardiac arrest in a high school water polo game in 2000 at Birmingham Groves High School. Kimberly's death inspired her family to establish the Kimberly Anne Gillary Foundation, which strives to place AEDs in Michigan high schools and to advocate for screening of all high school student athletes.

"More effective pre-participation screening will definitely help to save the lives of our high school student athletes," said Gillary, of Oakland County. "I would like to thank State Senator Martha Scott for her efforts in sponsoring the Resolution in the Michigan Senate designating April as Michigan Student Athlete Cardiac Awareness Month. I would also like to thank the Michigan Department of Community Health for their tireless efforts in working to protect Michigan families and to help to prevent the tragedy of any further deaths of our Michigan student athletes from sudden cardiac arrest."

In its efforts, the Kimberly Anne Gillary Foundation has donated more than 500 AEDs to Michigan schools. More importantly, two individuals have been rescued by two of these donated AEDs. To read more about Sudden Cardiac Death in the Young in Michigan, please visit: