Limiting Dangers for Young Athletes

Posted: 02/08/2010 02:02:45 PM PST

Updated: 02/09/2010 07:06:44 AM PST

In a four-day span, two seemingly healthy East Bay high school basketball players suddenly collapsed during games this year. One died and the other was hospitalized. 

The incidents, on Jan. 29 and Feb. 2, have shaken the school sports community and prompted soul-searching about avoiding such tragedies.

Experts point to many ways that students, coaches and administrators can lessen the risks such as better physical exams, more attention to players’ problems and concerns, better emergency equipment and training.

But sometimes, despite everyone’s best attempts, problems remain hidden and the first symptom is a collapse, said Dr. Casey Batten, associate team physician for UC Berkeley.

It has not yet been determined what caused the death of Joshua Ellison, a 17-year-old senior at Calvary Christian Academy in El Sobrante, or the collapse of 15-year-old David Gurganious, a varsity basketball player at El Cerrito High School.

But most sudden deaths of young athletes involve heart problems, according to a 2009 study in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

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