Senate passes bill that allows parents to get in-depth heart testing for athletes

By Bill Spencer - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - It started in 2012 when Scott Stephens agonized through the heartbreak of finding his oldest son, Cody, dead inside the house, lying in an easy chair.

Cody had died from a hidden heart defect no one knew he had.

How could anyone have known?

Cody Stephens was an all-star football player at Crosby High School, who towered over all of his teammates and had never shown any signs of any kind of physical problem.

But beating inside Cody’s chest was a hidden heart defect, a ticking time bomb, just waiting to go off.

And it did. In May of 2012, just a few weeks before Cody was to go on and play football for Tarleton State, he suddenly died at home, sitting in that chair in his parent's own bedroom.

Every day since that day, Scott Stephens has made it his mission in life to fight sudden cardiac death in teenage athletes by pushing for in-depth heart testing of all high school athletes in the state of Texas.

Almost six years to the day after Cody’s death, today Scott Stephens and his Cody Stephens Go Big Or Go Home Foundation watched in awe as the Senate passed “the Cody Stephens Bill,” which would allow every parent in the state of Texas to opt-in and get their high school athlete an in-depth, heart screen test, to determine if they have a hidden heart defect that could kill them on the athletic field.

Just such a test, Scott says, could have saved Cody’s life as well as dozens of other high school athletes who at this very minute are walking around and competing with a life-threatening heart condition that no one has ever detected.

Now, what started as House Bill 76, named after Cody’s football number, has passed both the Texas Senate and house and now only requires the governor’s signature to become law.

If signed into law, “Cody’s Law” will affect every single high school athlete in Texas by allowing hundreds of thousands of Texas teen athletes to have an in-depth heart screening, as part of their required UIL Texas high school sports exam.

The law would not require parents to have their student-athletes tested, it would simply allow them to opt-in and have their children given this life-saving test.

“Somewhere up there, Cody is high-fiving all of the other teammates he has lost to sudden cardiac death,” Scott Stephens says.  “Somewhere in heaven, Cody is smiling.”

Now all that remains is for Governor Gregg Abbott to sign this bill into law.

That is expected to happen in the next few weeks.

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