WEST JEFFERSON — Ashe County High School continued its six-year tradition of providing free heart screenings and physical examinations through “Heart of a Husky,” Friday and Saturday, May 17-18, partnering with Ashe Memorial Hospital, Ashe Medics, Ashe County Schools and Blue Ridge Energies to deliver the service.

“It went exceptionally well,” ACHS Assistant Principal and Athletic Director David Koontz said. “We decided to go with an online registration using the tool we used all year for athletics. It improved the process of parents scheduling appointments. It just made things simpler. we had a lot of positive comments about that. It streamlined the process of getting kids scheduled.”

Student-athletes from the high school and Ashe County Middle School received physicals, participated in ImPACT concussion tests and had EKG screenings examined by a professional cardiologist.

Koontz said freshmen and juniors participated in the ImPACT screenings for future reference.

“These screenings were for a baseline reading,” Koontz said. “If an athlete suffers a concussion or is under observation because they may have had one, it gives us an idea of what they’re baseline is, so it can be properly addressed.”

While the lines to the cardiologist were minorly congested at various times Friday evening and Saturday morning, Koontz said it is important to take an extra step for student safety.

“Most folks understand that and are very appreciative that we do this to make sure our student-athletes are good to go,” Koontz said.

This year, “Heart of a Husky” was also opened up to students participating in JROTC or the school band.

“We felt these kids are out there practicing during the summer, some carrying heavy instruments,” Koontz said. “That’s pretty physical, as well. It just shows the school system is being proactive and offering this free service to the community to ensure the safety of our students.”

Approximately 520 Ashe County students received the free screenings and examinations. Koontz added that, while the school can not prevent every single issue that might arise for a student-athlete, “Heart of a Husky” is another layer to checking and verifying students are able to participate. Koontz said the on-site cardiologist takes the annual event to another level.

“To me, it’s awesome, because it’s important to have a specialist on site to verify which kids are good to go and which kids we need to follow up on,” Koontz said. “Ultimately, the whole point of this is for the kids — to try and prevent or identify any kind of ailment or condition that could possibly cause that student to get hurt.”

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