Each legislative session thousands of bills and amendments are introduced in the Pennsylvania Legislature. Only a fraction become law, and an even smaller portion receive wide media coverage.

These bills impact the lives of people living in Pennsylvania every day. Each week The Sentinel will highlight one bill that has not received widespread attention.

About the bill

The Camp Hill community was in shock and mourning in 2013 when 19-year-old Trinity High School graduate Peyton Walker died of sudden cardiac arrest.

Now, state Sen. Mike Regan, R-Cumberland, is proposing “Peyton’s Law” to try to prevent similar deaths from occurring.

Regan recently circulated a co-sponsorship memo for a bill that would promote electrocardiogram testing for student athletes. The EKG could detect abnormalities that, left untreated, could lead to deadly heart events. The bill would:

  • Require schools to provide information to student athletes about electrocardiogram testing.
  • Notify student athletes that they can request electrocardiogram testing along with their standard physical examination.

The bill is backed by Peyton Walker’s mother, Julie Walker, who runs a foundation that advocates for and provides free EKG screenings.

“I just immediately broke down in tears,” Julie Walker told ABC27, when she learned that the bill would be named after Peyton. “Knowing this had her named tied to this and that she was making an impact and helping kids in the future, it would make her smile.”

The frequency of sudden cardiac arrests has been debated. The American Heart Association says about 7,000 such events occur out-of-hospital among people younger than 18 annually, and 90 percent do not survive up to the discharge from a hospital.

The AHA has been reluctant to recommend preventative EKG screenings for athletes, saying in a 2012 policy statement that sudden cardiac arrest is relatively rare and mass EKG screenings would be expensive.

“Subjecting all athletes to required (EKGs), therefore, places an undue burden on the health care system,” the AHA wrote.

However, Regan in his co-sponsorship memo linked to a more recent American Heart Association study finding EKGs to be more effective at detecting at-risk conditions than questionnaires that probe a person’s medical conditions and medical history. A 2013 NCAA-sponsored study supported the use of standard EKG screening for its athletes.

“Most experts believe that early detection of potentially lethal disorders can decrease cardiovascular morbidity and mortality,” Regan wrote.

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Daniel Walmer covers public safety for The Sentinel. You can reach him by email at dwalmer@cumberlink.com or by phone at 717-218-0021.