CHARLOTTE – The Panthers, in partnership with Atrium Health, promoted health and wellness in the Charlotte community over the weekend, offering life-saving screenings to local student-athletes.
The organization hosted this year's Heart of a Champion Day, an annual free sports-specific health screening and educational program for high school student-athletes, on Saturday at Bank of America Stadium.
The Heart of a Champion Day program included a review of each athlete's medical history, a sports-specific medical and musculoskeletal exam valid in North Carolina and South Carolina, a heart exam (which includes an electrocardiogram and echocardiogram, if needed), a vision test, a mental health exam, and provided access to a registered dietician.
"It was truly a team effort between a passionate cardiologist and athletic trainer to bring this event to life, by marrying cardiac screening with physical screenings," said Dr. David Price, medical director of Heart of a Champion Day and sports medicine physician with Atrium Health Musculoskeletal Institute. "I was part of a similar program on a smaller scale in Florida and always had a passion for engaging with kids in the community and teaching them about staying healthy."
Every student received an electrocardiogram (EKG), which traces the heart's electrical activity and was interpreted by an Atrium Health cardiologist. This aspect differentiates the program from a traditional sports physical, which may not be able to detect heart abnormalities.
The heart exam offered at Heart of a Champion Day increased the chances of detecting a heart problem which could lead to sudden cardiac death affecting an athlete's safety while participating in sports. This cardiac screening is not offered during routine sports physicals. The program was not intended to replace an athlete's yearly well child exam.
"By participating in this event, we get to help the students we care about so deeply lead active and healthy lives," said Dr. Matthew Schwartz, a pediatric cardiologist at Atrium Health Levine Children’s Congenital Heart Center. "And on the rare occasion we detect potential heart conditions, early intervention is key. Participation in this event can get them the care they need and hopefully enable them to return to the activities they love."
Students and their parents were provided information on high-risk disorders in student-athletes, injury prevention tactics, and treatment plans for at-risk athletes. The educational program sought to provide early intervention at a younger age when healthy living habits can be set or modified and student-athletes are motivated to respond.
Students also had the option to participate in a raffle drawing for Carolina Panthers items and had the chance to receive free Hands Only CPR training after their physical. More than 700 students and parents participated.
The efforts continued to build upon Tepper Sports and Entertainment's dedication to CPR training and education, highlighted during the organization's CPR and automated external defibrillator (AED) training and education event for TSE staff, some Panthers players, and PSL owners in April.
The Heart of a Champion Day program began in 2008, aiming to ensure high school student-athletes could safely compete in sports. It has expanded since then, now screening thousands of students at more than 100 schools across the Carolinas.
"The Carolina Panthers are pleased to partner with Atrium Health to support our region's high school student-athletes through the Heart of a Champion Day program," said Panthers director of community relations Riley Fields. "This is a terrific opportunity for Bank of America Stadium to serve as the host venue for this important program which will benefit nearly 1,300 student-athletes through comprehensive health screenings and evaluation, and ensure they are cleared for athletic participation this fall."