Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is reported to be the leading killer of student athletes in the United States and the leading cause of death on school campuses. An average of one in 300 student athletes have undetected abnormal heart issues that could lead to SCA.
Recognizing these staggering statistics, I introduced Senate Bill 836, known as Peyton’s Law, in an effort to educate every student athlete and their parents about electrocardiogram (EKG) testing to detect underlying heart conditions.
This bill has been a top priority for me because it honors a young woman who was taken from us six years ago at the young age of 19. Her name is Peyton Walker, and she died from Sudden Cardiac Arrest. Peyton was a graduate of Trinity High School in Camp Hill, and she was a sophomore at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre when she died. Her mother, Julie Walker, established and now heads The Peyton Walker Foundation, which advocates for the use of EKG testing to screen for underlying electrical issues in the heart that can lead to SCA. The foundation conducts free EKG screening events at schools across Pennsylvania and has screened several thousand students.
Unfortunately, Peyton’s family is not alone in losing a loved one to SCA. Based on Cody’s Law, recently enacted legislation in Texas named after Cody Stephens, a young football player who died of SCA, Peyton’s Law builds on the important groundwork of Act 59 of 2012, the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Prevention Act.
Thanks to Act 59, student athletes and their parents currently are provided an information sheet with symptoms and warning signs of SCA. However, there is no guidance on what steps can be taken if a parent wants to be proactive or if the student athlete has experienced any of the signs or symptoms of SCA.
Peyton’s Law requires information be provided to student athletes and their parents regarding electrocardiogram testing and notice be given of the option to request the administration of an electrocardiogram in addition to the standard physical examination.
This is a common-sense piece of legislation aimed at educating our student athletes and their families at a time when every hour of every day we lose a child to SCA. And the majority of those deaths are attributed to detectable and treatable heart conditions that went undiagnosed due to the limited scope of standard sports physicals and well-child check-ups.
As a father of four, Peyton’s story, as well as so many others, has hit close to home. Knowing a simple test could save my children from becoming a victim of SCA motivated me to have my own boys screened, and my legislation provides life-saving information to all parents and empowers them to take the same steps I did. And while the legislation speaks specifically to student athletes, I want all parents to be part of the bigger conversation – to be aware of SCA, its warning signs, and their ability to seek an EKG if they are worried about their child having an underlying heart condition.
Peyton’s Law has garnered tremendous support and momentum in the legislature, and I commend my colleagues for recognizing the importance of this issue. It is unusual for a bill to see such quick action, but the fact that I met with Julie Walker on this issue in July, introduced the bill in August, and by October it had achieved unanimous passage in the Senate, is a testament to the merits of the bill.
The legislation now awaits consideration in the House of Representative’s Education Committee, chaired by Representative Curt Sonney, R-Erie. I have had the pleasure of meeting with Chairman Sonney to discuss the significance of this issue, and I look forward to the bill’s passage in the House and it being signed into law by the governor.
Peyton’s Law will undoubtedly help save the lives of many young people in Pennsylvania while honoring the life and memory of a young woman gone too soon.