Young Hearts for Life begins pilot program with Benedictine athletes

Young Hearts for Life begins pilot program with Benedictine athletes
August 26, 2010

Phil Brozynski
(630) 829-6094

Lisle, Illinois ~ Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is a genetic abnormality present in approximately one in 500 people. It enlarges the left ventricle of the heart which can trigger fatal heart rhythm disturbances, particularly during exercise.

Young Hearts for LifeHCM is the most common cause of sudden cardiac death in young adults, comprising more than one-third of cases. Yet nearly 40 percent of young adults at risk for sudden death can be identified with an electrocardiogram (EKG).

The Midwest Heart Foundation is working to increase awareness of sudden cardiac death among young adults through its Young Hearts for Life Cardiac Screening Program, which brings qualified medical volunteers to area high schools to provide free EKGs and identify students at risk.

"On average, we find 2 to 3 percent of the EKGs we perform on high school students require more evaluation," said Joseph Marek, M.D., a clinical cardiologist with the Midwest Heart Foundation.

Now, Young Hearts for Life has brought its heart screening program to Benedictine University, where approximately 85 student-athletes were tested with the assistance of students enrolled in the Master of Science in Clinical Exercise Physiology (M.S.C.E.P.) program under the guidance of program and research coordinator Regina Schurman, M.S., R.C.E.P., C.P.A.

“We are pretty excited to partner with Benedictine University,” Marek said. “Eventually, we want to extend this program to all area colleges and universities.”

The heart is a muscular pump made up of four chambers. The two upper chambers are called atria, and the two lower chambers are called ventricles. A natural electrical system causes the heart muscle to contract and pump blood through the heart to the lungs and the rest of the body.

An EKG is a test that checks for problems with the electrical activity of the heart. An EKG translates the heart's electrical activity into line tracings on paper, where the results can be interpreted by a doctor or cardiologist.

Students in the M.S.C.E.P. program at Benedictine University receive extensive training on performing EKG examinations.

“We also have some other volunteers who are just entering the master’s program, who are in our pre-professional health programs, or in one case, is a student from North Central College who is performing an internship with the Performance Enhancement Center at Villa St. Benedict,” Schurman said.

The pilot program at Benedictine University involves student-athletes. However, the goal is to eventually test all students.

"When we detect someone who may be at risk, the student and their parents will receive a phone call from a clinician who will be able to answer their questions," Marek said. "They can then pursue whatever course they feel is necessary through their family doctor or specialist of their choice."

"Students who are not at risk will receive a letter or they can log on to a website after three or four weeks to get their results," he added.


Benedictine University is located in Lisle, Illinois, just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has branch campuses in Springfield, Illinois, and Mesa, Arizona. Founded as a Catholic university in 1887, Benedictine enrolls nearly 10,000 students in 56 undergraduate and 19 graduate programs. Forbes magazine named Benedictine among "America's Top Colleges" for the sixth consecutive year in 2016. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (hlcommission.org). For more information, contact (630) 829-6300, admissions@ben.edu or visit ben.edu.