BUFORD, Ga. -- The Buford School District has been hit hard this week, after losing yet another student athlete.
Seventh grader Jeremy Nelson was playing in a rec league all-star basketball game with the Gwinnett Basketball League Saturday night when he suddenly collapsed.
The 12-year-old died a short time later the hospital.
The county medical examiner has ruled the cause natural, saying pulmonary edema took his life. The family has requested an autopsy to determine what caused that fluid to build up in his lung.
But Nelson's longtime coach is calling for a change in the required physical evaluation. He says the Gwinnett Basketball League uses the standard physical form mandated by Georgia High School Association, but believes an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) should be required.
"I would say there do need to be some changes," he said. "Beyond the basic physical, you cannot necessarily determine an irregular heartbeat."
The idea has been raised before, and medical experts are split. Some question the accuracy of such an exam and worry it would yield too many false positive results, giving parents an unnecessary scare and leading to further, more expensive testing.
Jeremy's father, Herbert Nelson, says too many teens have died in the past year from heart related problems. Once he knows exactly what killed his son, he wants to find a way to make the athletic physicals more informative.
"We've talked to people already about heart scanning, we're going to do fairs," said Nelson.
Nelson says he's been touched with the outpouring of love and support for his son and family.
"We don't have to understand what God does. Everybody who knows me, knows I love my children. But this is something that has to be and I'm going to be strong about it," Nelson said.
"Love your kids and tell them everyday. And just because you leave home with them and they're doing good, doesn't mean you're coming home with them. Just love on them," he advised parents.
Superintendent of Buford City Schools, Geye Hamby said the Nelson family was well known in district - with Jeremy's twin sister, Jessica, also a seventh grade basketball player at Buford Middle school. His oldest sister, Kristina Nelson is a 12th grader at BHS, and participates on the varsity girls basketball team. Kristina has signed to play for Notre Dame next year.
According to Hamby, "Jeremy was a very kind young man and an excellent student athlete. Jeremy had a presence in the hallways and on the court. He was a young man that always shared kindness with others and one that the students enjoyed being around. His very pleasant demeanor will be missed by all."
Buford Middle School students go back to school Tuesday, where a number of grief counselors will be available to provide aid to the student body.
Last September, members of the Buford community lost another student when 16-year-old Adam Smith collapsed and died during a pre-season basketball workout. His high school team recently held a special game to honor the fallen player.