The state of South Carolina was stunned and saddened Friday night when news spread that a Hartsville High School football player had collapsed during a game and died a little while later.
A funeral service is scheduled for this afternoon for 18-year-old Ronald Rouse, whose untimely death was caused by a sudden cardiac arrhythmia brought upon by a congenital enlarged heart, Darlington County Coroner Todd Hardee said.
His death has highlighted concerns among many parents when it comes to athlete physicals and possible preventive measures.
There has also been concern expressed that there was no ambulance on the scene during the Hartsville game Friday night. It took an EMS unit 12 minutes to get to the field after 911 was called.
Jerome Singleton, spokesman for the South Carolina High School League, told the Georgetown Times this week having an ambulance on standby during football games is not something that can be required.
“It is good to have them at the games but it is not a requirement,” Singleton said. “In some remote areas they have only one ambulance and it’s not feasible to have them at the game but they are usually stationed where they can get there very fast.”
He said high schools do a good job making sure there are athletic trainers, and in many cases, other medical personnel on hand during games.
“We encourage medical personnel to attend the contests,” Singleton added.
EMS at local games
Tony Hucks, Georgetown County’s assistant Fire and EMS chief, said the county does make every attempt to have an ambulance on the scene at every Georgetown, Andrews and Carvers Bay home game.
Midway Fire Rescue is responsible for games at Waccamaw High.
He said because it is a hard-hitting game, injuries are always possible and time is sometimes of the essence to get someone to the hospital.
Also, there are usually hundreds of people in attendance so there is always a strong possibility a spectator may need medical attention.
“We do everything in our power to keep an ambulance there during the games,” Hucks said, adding, on occasion, the ambulance may be needed elsewhere for other situations.
School District spokesman Ray White said the schools works closely with EMS and even if an ambulance is not at a game for a period of time, other medical personnel are in the stands to offer assistance when needed.
White said each school has athletic trainers and medical doctors are usually on hand. He also said automated external defibrillators (AED) are also readily available, if they are needed.
White says before a student can be accepted to a football team, they need signed permission from a parent and must undergo a physical from a doctor.
That, White said, is a S.C. High School League requirement.
A medical professional, Dr. Charles Trant, told WBTW the physicals include the checking of vital signs, heart rates, listening to the patient’s lungs, checking for any signs of hypertension and asking the patient and the patient's family about medical history.
Doctors do not routinely perform EKG's or echocardiograms on the patients unless they suspect an abnormality or find some evidence of a potential condition during that routine physical.
If a condition is found, then doctors work with the patients to try to find medical treatment and that patient is not cleared to participate in athletic activities.
In most situations though, including Rouse's, the conditions are not seen during those routine physicals and often do not present themselves during any kind of preliminary exams.
"The really hard part about this stuff is, you can't find those … even if we did every test we have, on every single kid playing football, every single month throughout their career, some of these kids are still going to die," Trant said.
He said that despite the fact that there has been increasing media coverage of the deaths of young athletes, the number of such deaths has actually dropped significantly.
Trant said that though there are some tragedies, the current physical system does work most of the time and said unless new research suggests a better way of screening for potential problems, doctors have to use the tools at hand.
By Scott Harper
Georgetown Times news partner, WBTW-TV 13, contributed to this story.
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