TTU faculty help provide heart scans to high school athletes

Posted by Lori Shull - Thursday, November 17 2011
lshull@tntech.edu

 

thumb Heart_Scan_PicSix athletes from Cookeville High School found out they may have heart problems after undergoing echocardiograms with the help of Tennessee Tech University faculty and a CHS coach.

More than 170 CHS students had their hearts scanned, and now TTU and CHS are trying to find a way to make the screenings a regular fall event.

Echos, which check for blood flow, valve irregularities and enlargement, are not a standard part of a health physical. In recent years, there has been a movement to increase awareness about problems, and deaths, that may arise without the scans.

“You’re talking about six people who are going to get treatment; their problems may not have been fatal, but they’re going to get treatment,” said J.P. Barfield, director of TTU’s exercise science, physical education and wellness department.

“You hate to say you’re excited about somebody finding something like that out,” he said. “But at a school that size, you can’t help but have people who have heart abnormalities that would have gone undiagnosed otherwise.”

Over one weekend, Barfield and CHS counselor and cross-country coach Leah Burnett helped screen about 170 athletes. Burnett is the sister of Ryan Burnett, a CHS cross country runner who died in 1995 as a result of a thickening of the walls around his heart.

The students were charged only $35 for each scan; private donations covered the rest of the $70 cost.

Burnett and Barfield say they hope, in the future, to get donations to expand the program to other schools in the area and to use TTU nursing students to help administer the scans.

“I think it would make an exciting community health project, to get our students out and involved in the community,” said Sherry Gaines, director of the TTU Whitson-Hester School of Nursing.

The program is called Soaring Hearts, after Ryan Burnett’s favorite Bible verse. For more information, contact Leah Burnett at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it "> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it or 931-520-2163.