(FORT WORTH, Texas) -- The sudden deaths of two high school athletes within days have many parents and support groups fighting for heart screenings of all athletes.
Matthew Hammerdorfer, a 17-year-old from Larimer County, Colorado took a powerful hit to the chest during a rugby game Saturday and collapsed on the field. He was airlifted to a hospital, where he died.
An autopsy performed Sunday found the cause of Hammerdorfer's death was cardiomegaly and biventricular hypertrophy, which means an enlarged heart and enlarged ventricles. The Larimer County deputy coroner Kari Jones, however, noted that the family knew about Hammerdorfer's genetic heart condition. Hammerdorfer had previously undergone three heart surgeries because of his heart condition, according to Jones.
Despite the worrisome idea that participating in a vigorous sport like rugby contributed to Hammerdorfer's death, experts said his parents' previous knowledge of his heart condition precludes the idea that mandatory screening could have prevented it.
Hammerdorfer's death came days after Michigan high school basketball player Wes Leonard collapsed and died after scoring the winning shot for his team, leaving his coach, team and the community devastated.
Both young men's deaths were caused by sudden cardiac death, and experts said it occurs far too often in young athletes.
An average of 40 young athletes die from heart disease in the United States a year. That's approximately one death every nine days.
Many experts said recognition of early warnings signs is crucial in preventing sudden death. But advocacy groups want additional screening measures, believing broader screening could save lives.
Parent Heart Watch is one such group working to encourage awareness and preventive measures that would avert such deaths. It believes young athletes should get early and mandatory electrocardiograph, or ECG, screening, which looks at the activity of the heart over time.
Other groups also want schools and teams to have heart defibrillators at games, and have coaches and parents learn CPR.
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