Local doctors warn about dangers of cardiac arrest in young athletes

Javon Craddock - Image via Corey Craddock.PNG

Playing sports is a popular pastime for kids, but now doctors are warning about a growing health risk in young athletes - cardiac arrest.

Doctors in our area say more needs to be done to detect and prevent this for kids.

Coach E'Jay Ward and his Tyner Academy Rams and had a great season, but it was their first without Javon Craddock.

"I definitely felt his spirit and energy in our gym. We had a couple of game winners I knew had to do with Javon," says Coach Ward.

Watching his highlights is still tough. "There wasn't a doubt in my mind. I knew it was going in," he says.

Tragedy struck in May of 2018 while Javon was playing a pickup basketball game.

"Shooting ball with his friends and he sat down and collapsed," says Ward.

Javon died. He suffered from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM).

Most times, people don't even know they have HCM. It's typically when a wall near the lower chambers of the heart is abnormally thick and affects blood flow into the heart and out of the heart.

According to the American Heart Association, an athlete dies every 72 hours due to sudden cardiac arrest.

Dr. Gerald Johnson says strong screening can prevent tragedy.

"Their pediatrician or some provider ought to be eye-balling kids at least once a year if not more," says Dr. Johnson.

That means getting a cardiac ultrasound and know family history.

"Sending kids for cardiac evaluations where they have symptoms, such as fainting, chest pain or there's a family history of these diseases," says Dr. Johnson.

"Kids are starting and parents are starting to be more responsible for getting those checkups for their child," says Ward.

Coach Ward says he doesn't want to experience anything like this again. "His ceiling was high as far as shooting the ball," says Ward, "I think he would have turned out to be a great young man off the court as well."

Sumner Smith was another victim of cardiac arrest. He was on the swim team at Baylor, but passed away in October 2015 after suffering cardiac arrest in the pool during practice.

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Dr. Johnson says common red flags are dizziness, fainting, or chest pains while exercising.

He stresses getting annual checkups, even if you don't experience symptoms.

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