HOUSTON – Teenage athletes are often powerful and passionate about competing -- pushing themselves to the limit in the gym and out on the field, never knowing if they have the equivalent of a ticking time bomb in their chest.
How would someone know if he or she had a hidden heart defect that showed no symptoms?
"Losing a child is terrible," said Scott Stephens, of Crosby. "It’s horrendous. But when you lose a child to something that you know could have been prevented, that is haunting."
In 2012, Stephens lost his son, Cody, a star football player at Crosby High School, after the boy died from a hidden heart defect that was never detected through the standard UIL-required school sports exams that all Texas high school athletes must go through to play sports.
"What I lost my son to is preventable," Stephens said.
Now, more than seven years after Cody’s death, after more than seven years of battling in Austin to get a state law passed, one has been signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott.
It will give all Texas high school athletes the ability to get an in-depth, electrocardiogram heart test as part of their required sports exam. House Bill 76 was named after Cody’s football number.
“So now Texas is the first state in the nation to have a law that says if you want this in-depth heart test for your student-athlete, you can get it," Stephens said. "I mean, there are a million student-athletes in the state of Texas."
For five years, we at KPRC-TV have partnered with Stephens and his Cody Stephens Go Big Or Go Home Memorial Foundation to offer free, teen heart screenings to thousands of local athletes.
Now, the very same electrocardiogram test used at those screenings will be available to all Texas high school athletes.
All parents have to do is opt to have their children tested in this way.
Think of it: a painless, five-minute, noninvasive test that could very well save your child’s life.
“We have now added a huge medical advancement to our required sports physicals, and it’s going to save a lot of lives over a very long period of time," Stephens said.
The new law was signed by the governor last Friday. It goes into effect Sept. 1.