Henry Ford Health System conducts heart checks for young athletes at Ford Field

Posted Jul 28, 2013

HFHS administers preventative heart checks to kids within the Detroit PAL football program

Saturday, July 27, Ford Field hosted the Charlie Sanders Foundation, Henry Ford Hospital and Detroit PAL, who partnered to give student athletes between 14 and 18 years old heart checks.

Henry Ford provided two cardiologists and a preventative cardiology researcher to read EKGs for athletes in Detroit PAL's football program, one of the largest inner-city football programs in the country. The Detroit Raiders, Detroit Dragons and Redford Seahawks all had members receive heart checks.
Student athletes are required to have a routine physical on file before participating in school-sanctioned sports. However, heart checks are not included in a standard physical, and in recent years an increasing number of student athletes have lost their lives on the field, court and ice due to undiagnosed heart conditions.
For the past two years, the Charlie Sanders Foundation has held the "Have a Heart, Save a Life" golf tournament to raise funds for healthcare providers and their heart check programs, which screen metro Detroit area student athletes for heart problems. In 2012, the inaugural tournament raised around $40,000 and this year's June outing raised about $60,000.
Former Detroit Lions and Pro Football Hall of Fame tight end Charlie Sanders was inspired to create his foundation's golf tournament after hearing about Wes Leonard, the Fennville high school basketball player who went into sudden cardiac arrest and died in March 2011 after making the winning shot during a game.
"It just didn't seem fair for a kid like Wes Leonard to probably have the highlight of his life for a second. It just didn't seem right, so I just felt this is what I was supposed to do," said Sanders.
He was also touched by the experience of friend and colleague Bill Keenist, senior vice president of communications for the Detroit Lions, whose son Chris, a former high school biathlete and Adrian College football player, was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy--a weakening of the heart muscle--during his first season at Adrian. Keenist was lucky enough to be diagnosed and avoid sudden cardiac arrest during a game.

Sanders also thought about his children.
"Every parent wants their kid to 'be like Mike,' but they don't check to see if they have a heart like Mike."

For more information about the Charlie Sanders Foundation, visit and for more about Detroit PAL, visit