Free heart screenings for student athletes help catch abnormalities

Myles Jones loved to play football. During his sophomore year he excelled on the South Mecklenburg High School field.

“At that time I was doing football with pre-workouts and summer workouts,” said Jones.

Growing up, Jones would go with his dad, who used to coach at South Meck, to Heart of a Champion Day. It was there, in 2016, that a screening detected a possible problem with his heart.

“We did the EKG and I found out I had premature ventricular contractions which is like extra small heart beats,” explained Jones.

“Myles I remember from the event because his was interesting and it was picked up on a heart tracing and he got the appropriate cardiology follow up and this is a kid who had no symptoms,” recalled Dr. David Price who serves as the Medical Director for Heart of a Champion with Atrium Health.

Further testing revealed Jones had cardiomyopathy which sidelined him from sports. Strenuous exercise would only have worsened Jones’ condition according to Price.

“I take it as a blessing they were able to find it,” said Jones who now plays golf and fishes instead of pushing his physical limits on the field.

Price says the screenings are far more than just a regular checkup and that they ensure students can play sports safely.

“We hope doing this ultimately saves lives,” Price said. He and his team are preparing to screen 1,500 students on June 1st and hope see that number go up each year.

Since the program started more than 20,000 students have been screened and more than 200 students with potential heart abnormalities have been flagged.
 
As for Jones, he sees his cardiologist at Atrium Health on a regular basis. He’s set to graduate from high school and has plans to attend Western Carolina.

He credits Heart of a Champion Day for saving his life.

“It’s like God saying here’s a little piece of it, but I’m going to take it away. I’d rather have a little part of my life taken away than the whole thing so that’s how I see it,” explained Jones.

The program has expanded into Union, York and Lincoln counties. It’s more than just heart screenings. The day includes a musculoskeletal check, vision check and mental health screenings.