COLUMBIA -- The death of one teenager was too much for Gilda Cobb-Hunter.
With Kelly McKeowen in mind, Cobb-Hunter, a state representative from Orangeburg, pre-filed a bill this week that requires students to have an electrocardiogram (EKG) as part of a physical to be cleared to participate on a "school-sponsored athletic team."
"I am a firm believer in preventive health and thought it important to protect our young athletes by requiring this test," Cobb-Hunter said in an e-mail Thursday.
McKeowen was a 15-year-old freshman at Calhoun Academy when she collapsed in October 2007 while jogging. She later died of a previously undiagnosed heart ailment.
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McKeowen was a basketball player who jogged regularly. Cobb-Hunter spoke to McKeowen's grandmother last summer and decided to take action to try to prevent such tragedies.
"She was an athlete who had a physical exam done but not an EKG," Cobb-Hunter said. "The family was told that an EKG at the time of the physical would have identified the problem, and it could have been dealt with."
The first obstacle is determining how the tests would be paid for. That's a concern for Rep. Jackie Hayes, D-Dillon, the athletics director and football coach at Dillon High. An EKG costs about $300.
"Of course I think it's a great idea," Hayes said. "But where's the funding source? That will be a key factor, especially (for) a person like me in a rural school district."
That concern especially rings true this week, when state economists slashed the state's revenue estimate by $229.5 million for the fiscal year that will end in June.
Cobb-Hunter is sensitive to the issue but firm in her belief that EKG tests are a worthwhile expenditure.
Paul Dobyns, Spring Valley High's certified athletic trainer, said he understands Cobb-Hunter's viewpoint. But he questioned the need.
"That's the big question mark, in my opinion," Dobyns said. "I don't think they are necessary. With a good physical exam, a physician will discover heart murmurs that would lead to additional screening."