February 21, 2024

To help honor the life of local baseball player Austin Gorrell, CBU has begun a new outreach program for high schools, beginning with Martin Luther King High School in Riverside. On Dec. 18, electrocardiograms (EKGs) were distributed to more than 50 athletes at King High by California Baptist University’s College of Health Science. 

These tests examine how well the heart functions and were provided to students after King High reached out to CBU faculty regarding a local baseball tournament honoring Austin Gorrell.

Gorrell, a graduate of John W. North High School in Riverside, discovered that he had a heart disease after getting an EKG scan at the University of Nevada.  According to a video by Dreamer Athletics, Gorrell had cardiomyopathy which causes the heart to expand and can lead to heart failure. Soon after discovering his illness, Gorrell passed away in 2015 at the age of 19. Following this tragedy, his family began a baseball tournament in Riverside for high school teams to raise awareness about heart disease. 

Dr. Jong-Kyung Kim, professor of exercise science, said that Martin Luther King High School contacted CBU’s kinesiology department following the Austin Gorrell tournament in November. Kim stated that the coach, Justin Solis, was eager to provide the student-athletes with EKGs. 

“This is very common for the athletes. This is called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and [it] causes an enlarged heart,” Kim said. “This is a critical condition sometimes and it can cause a sudden cardiac death. So, the EKG is a very simple device, just to identify hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.”

Following the EKGs, Jacqlyn Spencer, athletic trainer at King High, shared how appreciative the faculty was that they got to partner with the kinesiology department to help the students. 

“Our student-athletes benefited greatly from the EKG testing CBU was able to provide for us,” Spencer said. “We were able to find any athletes with cardiac-related abnormalities, which we never would have known otherwise. This can help prevent sudden cardiac arrest from happening in the future. We were very grateful for the opportunity and hope to expand it and continue testing our student-athletes every year.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease has been the leading cause of death in the U.S. since 1950, an issue that is especially prevalent among athletes. 

Kim shared that while there is no definitive cause of cardiomyopathy, the symptoms may be exacerbated by the strain athletes put on their hearts during games and intense exercise. 

Most high schools and colleges do not require students to participate in an EKG, which is one of the only ways to tell whether someone is suffering from heart disease before it is too late. 

“Many professional teams require the athletes to have EKGs because they want to prevent sudden cardiac death,” Kim said. “Sometimes athletes don’t know if they have hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, so they [may] die when they’re doing a competition.”

After receiving the request from King High, Dr. Kim assembled four graduate students to help him perform EKGs on the student-athletes on Dec. 18. 

One of these students, Daniel Seo, graduate kinesiology major, shared how they organized the event.

“We did two parts. First, we measured their blood pressure manually, and then after that, they were seated to be ready to measure their EKG, which was interpreted by Dr. Kim himself. After the interpretations, we told the coach there and the teachers there how the student’s EKG and blood pressure showed and the possible future treatments. We conducted about 50 people and it took us about four hours. It was a long time but then it was a fun time, too, so it wasn’t really a tire for us,” Seo said.

Seo stated that while it was a great experience to help high school students, it was also an excellent way for him to gain hands-on experience in his field. 

When performing the EKGs, he had to be aware of a lot of minor details to ensure the tests ran correctly. 

“There’s a lot of other side jobs to do, for example, before the EKG we have to put it on the right position on their body. It has a specific position for us to put our electrodes on it, and before doing the electrodes we have to first check whether they have hair on the specific body parts because it might interfere with the electric records. Those are the tedious but essential parts that the students had to take part in,” Seo said.

Kim and Seo emphasized their gratitude toward the CBU administration for providing the equipment and funding for this experience. 

Both stated that without their support, they wouldn’t have been able to help the students at King High. 

In the future, Kim hopes to be able to reach even more people with their services and would love to branch out to more high schools throughout Riverside.

“We’re going to reach out to the general population, like the Riverside communities, especially low-income persons,” Kim said. 

Spencer shares Kim’s heart for the community and said it was a great experience to work with the CBU team.

“My experience was great working with CBU’s Kinesiology department,” Spencer said. “We were able to quickly work out the details and have a smooth, successful day of testing on our campus. The admin, physician and students involved were all very helpful and knowledgeable. It was also a great opportunity for our high school sports medicine students to collaborate and learn from college students.”

Through this event or others, Kim said the department is dedicated to providing for the community and helping those in need wherever possible. 

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