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Doctors screen student-athletes for heart problems

Dr. Douglas M. Luxenberg checks the blood pressure

Dr. Douglas M. Luxenberg checks the blood pressure of James Scarry, 13, of Garden City. (Jan. 31, 2010) Credit: Ed Betz

Dr. Sean Levchuck spent his day off Sunday reading charts and listening to hearts in the hope that what happened to Corey Stark will never happen to another child.

Stark, 17, collapsed and died last year as he was warming up for a rugby game in a field at William Floyd High School. The Mastic Beach teen knew he had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a condition that can prove fatal during times of stress on the heart, but he loved sports and chose to play anyway.

PHOTOS: January's Long Island high school sports highlights

Sunday, Levchuck and a team of other medical professionals volunteered at the DeMatteis Center in Greenvale, where they screened dozens of high school athletes for uncommon, serious heart conditions that can cause sudden death on the playing field.

About 60 people signed up for the free screening, which was sponsored by St. Francis Hospital, where Levchuck is director of pediatric cardiology.

"Sports make the heart work so much harder," Levchuck said. "Young kids tend to push themselves always to their limit, especially at the high school level."

In an exam room, Lois Morelli sat with two of her children, twins Frank and Grace, 16. Both are juniors at Manhasset High School and play numerous competitive sports, and both had just undergone EKGs and echocardiograms examining their hearts.

Levchuck delivered the good news: Both Frank and Grace were healthy, although he took the chance to deliver a lecture to the twins about wearing proper chest protection during lacrosse games.

Lois Morelli said she was relieved to know her kids were fine.

"I feel good because they've been screened and now we know they're good," she said.

Kevin Grimm, 16, a junior at Manhasset High School who plays football and lacrosse, said he sometimes gets worried when he reads about student-athletes suddenly collapsing.

"It's made me nervous," Kevin said. "It's good to get this checked out to make sure this won't happen to you."

He, too, got a clean bill of health.

Hospital officials plan to conduct a round of free screenings every quarter. Long Island parents who wish to have their student-athletes tested can contact St. Francis Hospital at 516-629-2038.

PHOTOS: January's Long Island high school sports highlights

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