MEMPHIS, Tenn. — He had the heart of a champion, and a heart that failed him too soon.
Dennis Price Jr., also known as 'DJ' to most people, was a former basketball player at Ridgeway High School.
He was loved by his community, teammates, and school.
“He was coming into his own... he learned the game the right way. He was one of the top players in this city”, Dennis Price explained.
His father told FOX13 he never thought he'd have to bury his son at just 16 years old.
He remembers the day like it was yesterday.
Price said he was on the road when he got a call from his son's house phone. He instantly knew something was wrong when the call came from that number.
It was DJ’s mother calling to share the news that would change both of their lives forever.
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“She was screaming. I didn’t understand anything she said but I knew what she was saying. It was the hardest thing,” Price shared.
DJ died from a condition called Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. Which came as a shock to his parents considering that he was healthy and active.
Price explained it's now his priority to do something so other parents won't have to face the tragedy they did.
“I couldn’t imagine being in her position. It was hard for me, but I don’t want to see another mother go through that,” Price said.
Doctor Reza Ahmadian a cardiologist at Stern Cardiovascular said this condition is common in athletes - especially African American men who play basketball.
But the big shock is most people don't know it's genetic.
“Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy is genetic… that means if mom or dad have the disease it’s a 50/50 chance the child will,” Dr. Ahmadian explained.
That's why it's important for the child to know their parent’s medical history.
But there's a bigger issue sparking controversy in the United States.
Some studies questioning why certain testing such as an "EKG" isn't taken on everyone.
“In the United States we don’t require an EKG. In Europe they do,” Dr. Ahmadian explained.
Dr. Ahmadian said running an EKG can bring on fear because it's not always 100% accurate.
Meaning if you aren't showing symptoms… the test can result in a false positive which will then lead to more testing.
The TSSAA said Tennessee state law requires every public school to have at least one AED, but they don't have jurisdiction over private schools.
They also say the reservation in making EKG’s mandatory is that there are too many athletes and not enough medical staff to read the test.
An EKG can range from $20 to $50, but of course there is no price worth saving a life.
Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy accounts for hundreds of lives each year. Dennis Price is honoring his son with a scholarship for high school students and parents to bring awareness to the condition.
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