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New Jersey high schools are scrambling to meet requirements for state legislation mandating more stringent physical screenings, precautions and education regarding cardiac screening and action plans for sudden cardiac arrest for high school athletes.

Gov. Chris Christie signed the Scholastic Student-Athlete Safety Act in July, implementing multi-pronged requirements to address and prevent sudden cardiac arrest in student athletes. The law includes a new pre-participation physical evaluation form, educational pamphlets that must be signed by parents and a professional development module all physicians giving sports physicals must complete, among other requirements. Although the framework is there, some details of the law are still being finalized.

In addition, another piece of legislation — called “Janet’s Law” — will require all public and non-public schools to have an emergency action plan for sudden cardiac arrest, as well as automated external defibrillators on site for athletic events. The device must be within “reasonable proximity” of the athletic field or gym, a distance that often means it can be retrieved and used within 90 seconds.

Janet’s Law was passed in 2012 and becomes effective Sept. 1, but some schools have complied ahead of the deadline and already have AEDs. Officials are hopeful the mandates for the Scholastic Student-Athlete Safety Act also fall into place by September, after details are worked out.

The new regulations were discussed today at the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association’s Executive Committee meeting in Robbinsville. NJSIAA Executive Director Steve Timko invited a representative from the Department of Education, Christene DeWitt-Parker, who fielded questions from athletic directors and administrators voicing concerns over the impending changes.

Among the issues, administrators said it may be challenging to require primary care doctors who give sports physicals to complete the new professional development module.

And regarding Janet’s Law, it’s not clear how many AED devices will be required on site at schools that have multiple athletic events going on at the same time, administrators said. They also wondered how to keep devices in close proximity to athletes who play golf or compete in cross-country.

The fear, administrators said, is the laws could open schools to more liability.

“It’s a great law as far as health and safety is concerned,” Timko said. “Once this is in place, everybody’s got to make sure that all the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed. For an athletic director, it’s another piece that’s on their plate to make sure everything is complete.”

The importance of more expansive cardiac screening and detailed action plans has been especially pertinent recently. Last month, a track and field athlete at Pascack Hills collapsed at practice and was revived by an athletic trainer using an AED. And in October, a Glen Rock boys soccer player collapsed during a game and was similarly revived with an AED.

“The reason why the law is important is because it protects kids,” said Montgomery High athletic director Tony Maselli, who’s helped disseminate information about the new protocol. “That’s the first thing and the most important thing. It’s all for the safety of the kids.”

According to the new laws, physicians are expected to go into far greater detail when questioning student athletes and their parents about family medical history during sports physicals.

“Getting a really good history is a critical part,” DeWitt-Parker said. “It’s not just the physical examination part, but the history.”

Meanwhile, AEDs typically cost between $2,200-$3,000, but schools will be eligible for grants to help offset the cost. It’s possible some schools may have to buy several AEDs depending on how many sports they offer.

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