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Back-to-school physicals can help find heart conditions

Posted at 12:43 PM, Aug 25, 2021

GREELEY, Colo. — Schools are opening back up, which means young athletes are getting ready to return to the field.

Vidi Ibarra went with her son, Ezekiel, to get a physical that required for him to play football and baseball this year.

“It definitely, as a parent whose kid plays football, makes me feel a lot more at ease knowing that they checked everything and he is in good health overall,” said Ibarra.

“We can look at your heart, your lungs, just make sure that you are physically capable of going back to school and back to sports,” said Dr. Kathryn Chmura, a pediatrician with Banner Health.

Chmura says routine physicals can help find previously undiagnosed heart conditions in kids.

“We are checking for any murmurs,” she said.“Also just looking at past family history of having any arrhythmias, or just irregular heartbeats, also family history of early heart attack or stroke, any family history of enlarged hearts.”

Back-to-school physicals are essential to athletes, but now some groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics are recommending all kids going back to school get annual physicals so doctors can look for signs of heart conditions in everyone.

“When you’re in a large system like we are, there’s a lot of things that can go wrong and a lot of things that can happen,” said Deirdre Pilch, a school superintendent

She oversees 23,000 students and wants to make sure they’re all in the best health possible before school starts.

“We want to do everything we can to avoid tragedy and to keep people healthy and safe,” said Pilch.

“Like I said, I found out within a week and a half of me being there. It was like the last week of November around that time, had the surgery December 11 of 2019,” said Cyrus Jones, a professional football player.

Jones has been an exceptional athlete all his life. He had to be to make it to the NFL.

But during a doctor's visit after signing with the Denver Broncos, Cyrus found out he has a heart condition.

“So, I had what’s called an anomalous coronary right artery. That’s basically just that my right coronary artery was misplaced, as you would say by the word anomalous, it was just on the wrong side,” said Jones.

Jones has played football at the highest levels in college and the pros, and somehow a defect he had since birth went undetected.

“They told me that I was at the most risk when my heart rate was up, so that was probably every day of my life,” he said. “Any point in time, I could have succumbed to something more traumatic I guess.”

Jones is now recovered from surgery and working on returning to the NFL, but he's also spreading the word about the importance of getting checked up.

“I just want to use my story and my platform to try to be able to spread awareness about it, because like I said, I went 26 years without having a clue that this was even a problem,” said Jones.

That’s why these appointments are so important to parents like Ibarra.

"As a mother of three, it's definitely nice too, to have that ease. So, it feels good to be able to get them the health care that they need and everything to get them ready for school," she said.