Pressel, Bohacek bill to help prevent sudden cardiac arrest of students passes General Assembly

Posted by: Josh DeFonce  | Monday, April 5, 2021 4:30 pm

STATEHOUSE (April 5, 2021) – A bill to increase the availability of information on sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) of students recently passed the General Assembly, said State Rep. Jim Pressel (R-Rolling Prairie) and State Sen. Mike Bohacek (R-Michiana Shores).

House Enrolled Act 1040, authored by Pressel and sponsored by Bohacek, would help lessen the possibility of SCA in students by making information about the issue more widely accessible to all school staff. Under current law, schools are required to distribute information on SCA and an acknowledgement form to student athletes and their parents. HEA 1040 would require additional information to be included on the distributed sheets regarding SCA including the nature and warning signs of SCA and information about electrocardiogram testing. HEA 1040 would also require the Indiana Department of Education (DOE) to showcase current information regarding SCA on its website.

This legislation was authored in response to the death of LaPorte High School junior Jake West in 2013. West collapsed at football practice and died of SCA brought on by an arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy. In response, the IU Health LaPorte hospital performed free screenings for possible heart issues on 250 local student athletes. Three of these students were referred for further testing, according to The Northwest Indiana Times. Currently, according to the DOE, student athletes in Indiana are not required to be medically cleared by a licensed health care provider before being allowed to return to play after an on-field injury.

After the death of her son, Jake West's mother, Julie West has become dedicated to preventing this tragedy from happening to other families. After Jake passed away, his older sister, who never exhibited any signs or symptoms of a heart problem, was screened and diagnosed with the same condition. She now lives with a defibrillator implanted to monitor her heart.  A heart screening saved her life. 

“There is no doubt that the passage of HEA 1040 — Jake’s Law — will save lives in Indiana,” said West, founder of The Play for Jake Foundation. "After losing my son from SCA during football practice, I have focused my life on making sure that no other family has to endure the unbearable pain of losing a child to SCA. SCA is the leading medical cause of death in those under 25, the No. 1 killer of student athletes and the leading cause of death on school campuses. This law will help further educate and train individuals on the critical signs and symptoms leading to SCA so that we can prevent these tragedies from happening. This is only the beginning of making the necessary changes to better protect our children when it comes to their heart health.”

"SCA is the leading cause of death for young student athletes in the country," Pressel said. "Over the last several years, LaPorte County has lost three kids due to this condition. Those great students are the reason why I authored this bill. I hope that more athletes will be aware of this condition and receive information that could help save a life."

"If proper information had been available to student athletes and their families, maybe Jake could have been tested and tragedy could have been avoided," Bohacek said. "As the parent of a student athlete, I know how important the availability of safety information is. This bill is a common-sense way to help keep our children safe as they participate in athletics."

Arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy is a genetic disease that is believed to affect one in 5,000 people, according to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. This disease causes irregular heart rhythms and creates stress on the blood pumping process. Over time, the heart's ability to pump blood decreases to the point of heart failure, as was the case with West.

The causes of SCA in young people vary. Most often, death is due to a heart abnormality.  For a variety of reasons, something causes the heart to beat out of control. This abnormal heart rhythm is known as ventricular fibrillation, according to the Mayo Clinic.

HEA 1040 will now be considered by the governor.

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State Representative Jim Pressel represents House District 20,
which includes portions of LaPorte and Starke counties.

Click here for a high-resolution photo of Rep. Pressel.

State Sen. Mike Bohacek represents Senate District 8,
which includes portions of LaPorte, Starke and St. Joseph counties.
Click here for a high-resolution photo of Sen. Bohacek.