Hundreds line up for free physicals, EKGs

By JB Clark/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Hundreds of students from Tupelo and the surrounding area received free physicals, EKGs and echocardiograms at the Link Centre in Tupelo on Saturday.
Mississippi students entering team sports programs in middle and high school are required to get a sports physical and the Weston Reed foundation uses the requirement as an opportunity to test young people’s hearts as well.
“Today, any child that comes gets a free sports physical and with the parent’s permission, they get an EKG,” said Lee Reed, father of the late Weston Reed. “If it shows an abnormality they get an echocardiogram – ultrasound of the heart. As adults we spend a tremendous amount of time on our health but we don’t check our children’s hearts and the majority of incidents that occur on an athletic playing field are heart related.”
Weston Reed died from a sudden cardiac arrest in 2007 during a soccer practice.
“Fundamentally, most kids are healthy so it’s a little bit of a needle-in-a-haystack program in the sense that we’re trying to find the few kids who really do have a problem that should be identified before they participate in sports,” said Dr. Karl Crossen, a cardiologist at North Mississippi Medical Center, as he looked over Tray Evans’ EKG.
“An EKG will give a clue about if they have a thickened heart muscle or abnormality in their heart rhythm,” he said.
Tray, 12, got his physical so he could play football at Tupelo Middle School. He said he feels better about going out for a spot on the defensive line or as a linebacker knowing his heart health is on the up and up.
Students who had abnormalities in their EKGs were given a free echocardiogram.
The physicals cost the foundation approximately $15 per student. Anyone interested in donating to the Weston Reed Foundation to help with the cost can do so through the CREATE Foundation.
The test showed Dr. Bo Calhoun the students’ heart performance on a computer screen.
“We’re looking for cardiomyopathy – if the heart isn’t squeezing well – his is squeezing fine,” Calhoun said as he ran the ultrasound over Treshaun Gates’ chest. “We’re looking for valve leakages or valve narrowing – his valves look normal – and the most important thing is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and his echo is normal.”
Treshaun, 12, was glad his test went well so he could try out to be a shooting guard on Okolona High School’s basketball team.
Calhoun said abnormal EKGs don’t always mean somethingis wrong, but when something is wrong they are good indicators.
“A lot of times the EKGs can be abnormal but it’s kind of like having red hair. It’s not common but it’s normal,” Calhoun said.
NMMC spokeswoman Deborah Pugh said volunteers performed 533 physicals, which surpassed the 450 free physicals from last year.
jb.clark@journalinc.com