New legislation could help student athletes with heart problems

BOSTON — A Massachusetts family is pushing for legislation to require automated external defibrillators, or AEDs, in schools and that coaches be trained to use them.

“You would think every school would have them but sadly they don't,” said Stephen Godbout.

His son Ben, 13, was diagnosed with a heart condition last year.

The teen was an avid hockey player but stopped playing when doctors told him it was too risky for his heart.

"It was kind of tough, but I kept thinking there is so much I can do," he said.

"It was heartbreaking at first that he needed to make some lifestyle changes. But on the other hand we were so fortunate that we had the information," said his mother, Barri Lynn Godbout.

She considers the family fortunate because sometimes the first sign of cardiac illness in children is collapse.

“There are often no premonitory symptoms, meaning nothing that the young individual or their parents would have been able to pick up on,” explained Dr. Aaron Baggish, a cardiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital.

The Sudden Cardiac Foundation estimates that each year approximately 9500 children in the U.S. under the age of 18 experience cardiac arrest outside the hospital.

7,000 of them die.

Dr. Baggish said when a student athlete goes down with cardiac arrest, there is no time to waste.

“We're talking minutes. Anywhere from three to five maybe seven minutes at the most,” he told FOX25.

There are two pending bills in the State House that would require Massachusetts schools to have AED’s on site and require coaches to be trained to use them.

To read about the bills visit:


Last month, coaches at Algonquin High School in the Nortborough-Southborough School District underwent training on how to use the life-saving equipment.

“It's the number one killer of student athletes. Cardiac arrest. I tell that to people it opens their eyes. Like, I never knew that,” said Brian Doherty, a CPR trainer.

Gerry Cushing was one coaches who underwent the training.
"There's always that outside chance that anything could happen. So you always want to be prepared for the worst," said Cushing.

FOX25 found one area of athletics that is potentially the least prepared—weekend sports outside the school setting.

Some coaches lack training in cardiac emergencies and some fields do not have AED’s.

Ben Godbout knows how risky that can be

“We should definitely get AEDs into all schools,” he said. “It's really important. It can happen, like anyone, at any point. And if they don't know about it it's really dangerous... And minutes count. “

In Massachusetts students are required to have a physical examination to play sports each year.

There is a discussion on the national level if more extensive and expensive heart testing should be required to determine if there is an underlying heart condition.

For more information on sudden cardiac arrest visit