BY RUSSELL HUFFMAN
In addition to their regular physicals athletes in the Stephenville ISD also received heart screenings thanks to the Cody Stephens Foundation and the effort of athletic trainer Debby Winder who contacted the group.
In 2012, Stephens was a Crosby High School football player just weeks away from graduation when he died due to an undetected heart condition. His death was all the more tragic when it was learned his condition was treatable through surgery.
“Go Big or Go Home!” was Stephens’ motto and his story hits close to home when considering he had earned a scholarship to play football at Tarleton State University. He was a 6-9, 285-pound athlete in peak physical condition who sat down in a recliner to take a nap and never woke up again.
“When I learned about the Cody Stephens Foundation I knew it would be a great idea for our athletes in the Stephenville ISD,” Winder said.
Stephenville athletes in grades 7-12 received an electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG) a test that measures the electrical activity of the heartbeat in addition to their regular physicals.
Due to the efforts of the foundation, Texas legislatures have passed House Bill 76, which puts the choice in parents’ hands on whether their child should be screened for, sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). The Texas Senate passed the bill on May 20, 2019, and it only awaits Governor Greg Abbott’s signature to become law.
Parents can get the physical and ECG done at school or with their doctor – nothing changes there. There is no mandate to have an ECG. Instead, this is an option for the parent to choose to add an ECG to the already required physical.
SCA is the number one cause of death on young athletes, and too often parents find out the unknown condition was treatable.
A total of 265 athletes were screen in Stephenville, and student trainers got the unique experience of learning how to help perform the tests which are done via wireless ECG machines which send a signal to four laptops being monitored by heart screening director Nathan Schwarz.
“I have a unique job and enjoy working with the athletic staff and trainers from all the schools we work with,” Schwarz said. “My job involves making sure all the data is correctly gathered and processed before sending it out to a doctor.”
A cardiologist then reads all those tests with abnormal screening alerts being sent back to the ISD and given out to parents.
Once parents are alerted to a heart condition, they are also told the time frame they have to get their child further testing, or the athlete won’t be allowed to participate in sports.
Due to donors, the first year of testing for an ISD is provided free to all athletes, and after that, the test costs $20 – again athletes are not required to take the test, but the option is supposed to be made available.
You can learn more about the Cody Stephens Foundation right here.
Symbols of the logo represent:
Wings & Sun’s rays – FFA, the organization that Cody loved being a part of
“76” – Cody’s football # for the Cougars and was promised at Tarleton Texans (both jerseys temporarily retired)
Red & White – colors of Crosby Cougars where Cody played high school football
Purple & White – color of Tarleton Texans – where Cody would have played college football
Heart shape – Cody’s big heart that loved everyone
Barbwire – represented Cody’s favorite song – “Barbwire Halo”
Shotgun shell – Cody’s love of the outdoors, hunting & fishing
EKG line – EKG line representing heart screenings