Sudden deaths have Valley schools reviewing policies

FRESNO, Calif.

The two tragedies have given Valley schools a chance to review their own prevention policies.

Matthew Hammerdorfer, 17, was captain of his rugby team and was in the middle of a game when tragedy struck.

"He was tackling somebody who had the ball. He got up and started to walk a couple of steps and then he just collapsed," Austin Gloss said.

Just four days before the Colorado teen's death, Wes Leonard died in Michigan -- minutes after scoring the winning basket to clinch his team's perfect season. Both died of sudden cardiac arrest.

Doctors say in sudden death situations, the heart typically beats normally without any symptoms, then suddenly becomes erratic and the stops.

And it often occurs without warning, even in a doctor's exam.

"If there was some pre-existing condition that hadn't come to fruition yet where they might have a blockage or an aneurysm or something you're really not going to pick up on just a general physical exam," Dr. James Wiggins said.

Some parents are pushing for athletic physicals to include EKGs to detect heart trouble.

Dr. James Wiggins at Peachwood Medical Group says the tests could be helpful, but they're expensive and they're not foolproof.

"You can sort of get a lot of things off an EKG, but even with that you can still miss things because it's literally 15 seconds you're looking at what the heart's doing."

High schools in Fresno and Clovis are prepared for the type of emergency that killed Hammerdorfer and Leonard.

Coaches get CPR training and every high school in the two school districts has a defibrillator to kick start a stopped heart.

"They're enough that it's going to save someone's life if you get it to them quick enough," Hoover High School Athletic Director Tim Carey said.

At Hoover High School, they have three of these defibrillators strategically placed all over campus. This one is about 35 steps from the main gym, which is where they play basketball and volleyball games.

The devices could one day be the most important piece of equipment on the court.

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