CONCORD -- Alex Scocci looks like the last person with reason to worry about his heart. He was one of the first De La Salle High student-athletes to avail himself of a cardiac screening at the school Saturday morning.
The free screening, designed to detect undiagnosed heart conditions and offered by John Muir Health, included a blood pressure check, an EKG, an examination by a cardiologist and, if needed, an echocardiogram. More than 130 De La Salle athletes registered for the event. Scocci, 16, a 6-foot-7 sophomore who plays on the school's junior varsity basketball team, received a clean bill of health.
"I really wanted to check my heart," he said. "I wanted to see if anything is wrong with me, and if there's something I can do about it."
The screening was the brainchild of Sally Davis, a cardiologist for John Muir Health. Her dream is to expand Saturday's event into a countywide program. That it began at De La Salle is sadly fitting. In October 2009, a De La Salle freshman, Darius Jones, collapsed during a basketball game unaffiliated with the school and died of sudden cardiac arrest.
"I have been a cardiologist here for 30 years and have wanted to see a high school program forever," Davis said. "The traditional sports physical has never required an EKG. There's still no formal recommendation."
Cardiovascular screenings are required for high school athletes in Europe and by the International Olympic Committee, Davis said. Data from those exams, she added, shows a 1-in-200,000 incidence of life-threatening conditions.
"So it's puny," she said. "But they found up to 15 percent of competitive athletes have an abnormal EKG by athletic EKG standards and bear further study. As a screening tool, it has utility."
Saturday's event was staffed by 27 John Muir Health volunteers. Doug Bauman, an assistant athletic trainer at De La Salle, would like to see the school host a couple screenings each year.
"We have around 550, 600 athletes," he said. "Today we're seeing maybe about 160 of them. We've got a couple teams traveling. To do it once or twice annually would be ideal, to cover as many people as possible."
Exam results were forwarded to the athlete's parents and pediatrician.
"If they need further follow-up, it's in the hands of those people to decide," Davis said. "It's supposed to be as open and free as people can make it."
Dorothy Scocci, Alex's mother, believes the screening provided peace of mind for student-athletes and their parents.
"As a parent, you take your kids for physical exams, shots," she said. "But they don't do a comprehensive test for the heart."
Contact Gary Peterson at 925-952-5053. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/garyscribe.