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Doctors to Descend on Grossmont High, Hoping to Catch Fatal Heart Issues

“Our biggest concern is trying to find that student-athlete who has some kind of cardiac murmur,” said Dr. John Martinez at La Mesa Kaiser clinic.

Dr. John Martinez of Kaiser-Permanente clinic in La Mesa. Credit: Ken Stone
Dr. John Martinez of Kaiser-Permanente clinic in La Mesa. Credit: Ken Stone

Originally posted at 2 p.m. July 18, 2013

About 20 Kaiser-Permanente medical staffers, including five physicians, will assemble at PE locker rooms Saturday at Grossmont High School.

Not a drill, their efforts could be lifesaving for the 100 or so athletes getting physicals—both boys and girls.

“Our biggest concern is trying to find that student-athlete who has some kind of cardiac murmur,” said Dr. John Martinez at the La Mesa clinic Thursday.

Some high-school athletes have passed out amid arrhythmia episodes, and “in some cases unfortunately it could be fatal,” said Martinez, a sports medicine specialist who has volunteered as team physician with USA Triathlon national teans and worked at the Ironman Triathlon World Championships in Hawaii.

Kaiser doctors are volunteering their time Saturday morning as well.

“It’s something we try to do once a year to give back,” Martinez said.

Kaiser doctors have given student-athlete physicals throughout the county for about 18 years, but Saturday’s event is a first for Grossmont High, he said.

It’s also serving as a fundraiser for the athletic department, Martinez said.

Frank Foggiano, athletic director at Grossmont, said physicals at the 8-10 a.m. event will cost $20. Parents were informed via letters in the past month, Martinez said.

The charge appears mandatory, according to a notice posted on the district website. Similar charges have run afoul of state rules against pay-to-play in public schools.

In 2010, the ACLU accused the Grossmont Union High School District of illegal $20 uniform charges.

In response to a Patch inquiry, Brian Wilbur, the district director of extended curricular programs, said via email: 

“The requirement to participate in athletics is that a student be cleared by a physician. There is no requirement that students avail themselves of this particular physical opportunity. Therefore a charge does not violate the ‘free public education’ laws because there is no mandatory participation here. 

“A student may choose from a multitude of options to obtain a physical.”

Schools Superintendent Ralf Swenson added: “Education Code 49458 discusses the requiring of a physical to participate in athletics and CIF Bylaw 308 demands it.”

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