WESTLAKE VILLAGE (CBSLA.com) — The death of a young athlete due to an undetected heart condition is leading to changes that will save lives.

Justin Carr, a young student athlete at Harvard-Westlake, died during a swimming workout. His autopsy revealed that he, unknowingly, suffered from cardiomyopathy, which is a weakening of the heart muscle, increasing the risk of cardiac arrest.

Soon after, 200 student athletes reportedly underwent a physical and had their hearts screened in order to make sure it was safe for them to partake in sports.

The idea of testing students at Oaks Christian High School came from nurse, Linda Lathem following Carr’s death.

“The event that happened at Harvard-Westlake was really the momentum that got us moving forward much quicker,” Lathem said. “Losing Justin Carr, and seeing that tragedy unfold was just devastating for all of us as parents, as administrators at the school, as teachers, faculty. All of us were just really touched by that story.”

Oaks Christian athletic director Jan Hethcock began offering physicals with heart screenings for $45 for his athletes.

“I honestly sat there with my administrators and said ‘why would we not do this’,” Hethcock said. “This is something that has to be done.”

UCLA’s medical outreach center in Thousand Oaks, led by cardiologist Ravi Dave, played a major role in the proceeding screenings.

“What we did was, we had our Thousand Oaks facility closed down for two days and had the athletes come to the facility and have an evaluation by a regular doctor or a primary care physician for a full sports physical,” Dr. Dave said. “But we also had cardiologists that screened every child.”

Out of the 200 students tested, 15 percent were “red-flagged” to undergo further testing, but ultimately, they were all cleared to play.

“(There) was definitely some stress, some stress-factor there not knowing that undetected heart disease takes athletes at this age’s lives,” Parent Jay Bayless said. “So this was a really good process, and now I know (my son) checks out good.”


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