HIC, JAAA sign off on 4-year cardiovascular screening deal

BY SANJAY MYERS Observer staff reporter

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

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THE Heart Institute of the Caribbean (HIC) yesterday announced details of a partnership with the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) that will ensure free cardiovascular screening of junior athletes from 2014 to 2018.

Professor Ernest Madu, the chief executive officer and founder of the HIC, said the deal, which comes on the heels of the sudden passing of St Jago High student Cavahn McKenzie, is worth approximately $10 million.

The HIC shared that screening has been completed on 66 of the 84 juniors scheduled to depart tomorrow for the Carifta Championships in Martinique. The remaining athletes are set to be screened today.

"The issue of cardiovascular health for athletes has been a major concern to all of us for many years.

"We are interested in the overall health of athletes, but when we encounter a situation when a young athlete, in particular, dies suddenly, that's something troubling for us.

"Dr [Warren] Blake [the JAAA president] and I started discussing this matter and I'm glad that those discussions have come to fruition. Now we have an organised cardiac screening programme for our athletes in partnership with JAAA," Professor Madu told reporters and others in attendance yesterday at the HIC's base on Balmoral Avenue.

McKenzie collapsed and died after completing a 6K race on February 22, while representing Jamaica in the North American, Central American and Caribbean (NACAC) Cross-Country Championships in Tobago.

An autopsy done was inconclusive, however, it is widely believed that the cause of death was heart-related. A pending toxicology report is expected to shed further light on the tragic case.

Meanwhile, Professor Madu added that his organisation will also be "creating a special programme" to offer lower screening rates for athletic directors and coaches of the JAAA, as well as seminars for cardiovascular education. He also said he will be "reaching out" to other sporting bodies to bridge similar ties.

Dr Blake, in response to the gesture, said: "Jamaica have always taken great pride in our sportsmen and sportswomen. The sudden passing of one of them understandably triggers a wide range of emotional responses, not just amongst the family of the departed, but amongst the athletic fraternity and the people of Jamaica.

"We [the HIC and the JAAA] came to an agreement to perform continuing cardiac evaluation of our athletes going abroad and this was to be free of cost. This a really a most remarkable offer in these days and we should congratulate the Heart Institute of the Caribbean."

Natalie Neita Headley, the minister with responsibility for sports, lauded the "exciting new initiative" for athletes competing at the Carifta Games and said the Heart Institute of the Caribbean's "generous gift" is a timely endeavour that coincides with the government's move to develop a health insurance plan as part of the National Sports Policy.

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