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Heart Monitors In Middle School Gym Class? 950

An anonymous reader writes "My son brought home an order form from his middle school. Apparently the 7th (his grade) and 8th graders are being asked (required?) to purchase their own straps for the heart monitors they're to wear during gym class. I know nothing yet of the device in question, but have left a voice-mail with the assistant principal asking him to call me so I may ask some questions about the program and the device. My tinfoil-hat concern is that the heart rate data will be tied to each child, then archived and eventually used for/against them down the road when applying for insurance, high-stress jobs, etc. 'I see you had arrhythmia during 7th grade pickle ball? No insurance for you' Has anyone heard of such a program, or had their child(ren) take part in it? Does the device transmit to the laptop the overweight gym teacher will be watching instead of running laps with the kids? Perhaps data is downloaded from the device after the class? Or am I just being paranoid? Thanks for any insight."
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Heart Monitors In Middle School Gym Class?

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  • Well (Score:3, Informative)

    by ShooterNeo ( 555040 ) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @05:20PM (#29431513)
    That device isn't sophisticated enough to detect arrhythmias. It's heart rate, that's it. And if your child DOES have heart problems, sooner or later he or she will need to see a physician, who will be sure to inform the insurance company of the condition. What I am getting at is that there's no hiding from big brother anyways, so you might as well not worry about the minor infringements of privacy.
  • by jerzee55 ( 1274446 ) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @05:25PM (#29431625)
    I saw something similar in a school where I teach. A research project involving a group of children was asked to participate after parental permission and notification and consent were given, detailing the purpose of the project, asking for permission for blood samples and a complete physical given to the child free of charge. The students were awarded gift certificates and other free items such as calculators, CD carriers, and water bottles. The heart monitors were worn during gym class only, and the heart rates were compared prior to and after exercised to measure heart rate resting times. The data was tied to numbers, not names, and was stored that way, so there were no long term consequences of the test, and all information was shared with parents. If you have not given your permission for this testing, I would certainly be upset as a parent that you have not been given any information as to the use of the data, or the confidentiality of the data.
  • by evanbd ( 210358 ) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @05:31PM (#29431757)
    Because they're not a healthcare provider, if they acquire HIPAA protected information, they're not actually required to do anything in particular. They could leak it without consequences. They could use it maliciously. They could sell it.
  • Re:Paranoid (Score:5, Informative)

    by dreamt ( 14798 ) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @05:32PM (#29431767)

    If only this is what a capability of the heart rate, it could make sense. You are thinking something like an EKG/EEG. A heart rate monitor that they are most likely referring to would be something like one sold by http://www.polarusa.com/us-en/ [polarusa.com] where the basic model just tells you your current heart rate. Nothing about detecting rhythm, etc. Its just how many beats/minute your heart is pumping.

  • by einstein4pres ( 226130 ) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @05:35PM (#29431819)

    HIPAA only covers medical practitioners, insurance companies, and the like.
    http://www.privacyrights.org/fs/fs8a-hipaa.htm#3 [privacyrights.org]

    A little lower indicates that school nurses visits explicitly don't count.

    According to the Supreme Court, FERPA doesn't allow individuals to sue.
    [privacyrights.org]http://www.privacyrights.org/fs/fs29-education.htm [privacyrights.org]

  • Ask the teacher (Score:2, Informative)

    by MBCook ( 132727 ) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @05:36PM (#29431833) Homepage

    Why not ask the teacher what it's being used for? I can think of a couple of things.

    1. You're only doing the strap, so this is just for hygiene and he'll wear it either way
    2. It's so they can teach the kids to recognize when their heart rate is high enough to be cardiac exercise or when they are working too hard
    3. It's so they can chart the kids over the semester to see if what they are teaching them is working (i.e. to evaluate the teacher/program, not the kids)
    4. Maybe it's to make teaching how your heart rate changes in response to stress/exercise easier than when I was in school (and you had to take your own pulse to a stopwatch)

    Just find out what they are using it for. If you are really paranoid, get the principal to sign some slip saying that can only use it for those purposes.

    Not everything has to be sinister. This doesn't seem like any real invasion of privacy. Would you be worried if the kids were running on fancy treadmills that already do this anyway?

    Knowing your heart rate can be an important thing in exercising.

  • Re:Holy shit? (Score:5, Informative)

    by antifoidulus ( 807088 ) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @05:36PM (#29431843) Homepage Journal
    Private health insurance does that to a person. The system in the US is screwed up beyond all repair. For instance, if a company finds out that you or anyone in your immediate family has any medical problems that ends up being a HUGE strike against you. Legally they cannot ask such questions, but they have ways of finding out(from illegal but common searches to just seeing if you have any obvious health issues when you show up to the interview).

    US health insurance is KILLING US competitiveness abroad(not to mention the insanely top-heavy structure of US businesses, but thats another conversation). The sheer amount of cost(both for the insurance and the staff to administer it) about nullifies the cost advantages US workers have over European workers(who have higher taxes associated with them, but no health insurance), and makes Canadian workers look extremely attractive(health insurance is covered, but unlike Europeans they can actually be fired without spending massive amounts of time and money filling out pointless paperwork to get rid of a paperweight).
  • Re:Paranoid (Score:3, Informative)

    by SethJohnson ( 112166 ) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @05:37PM (#29431867) Homepage Journal
    This whole question is just ridiculous. Polar sells these kits that schools can buy to use for improving exercise programs. It includes a bunch of chest straps and a bunch of wrist watches. The kids wear the stuff while they run around in gym class. At the end of class, the kids turn their stuff in and the teacher can download the data from the watches via IR to a computer. Then the kids' heart rates can be tracked. It's really an method for optimizing the workouts. It also demonstrates progress over time of physical fitness.

    It's the kind of thing that will help identify that baseball and kickball aren't good workouts while basketball, soccer, and field hockey are.

  • Re:Holy shit? (Score:5, Informative)

    by guyfawkes-11-5 ( 1583613 ) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @05:42PM (#29431963) Homepage

    I'm betting it's not even that and it's just a heart rate monitor to improve the quality of aerobic exercise. Sounds like a pretty good program to me; if kids are going to not do physical activities willingly and do the bare minimum in gym class, monitoring heart rate might be a necessary evil to ensure they get enough exercise.

    I use a HRM all the time while running or biking. Its a good way to give you feedback on your exertion level, and will allow the kids to learn more about max heart rate, threshold level etc. I would want my own band also, rather than some sopping wet band from the previous gym class. Unless they spring for the higher end moniors, the data is not downloadable and is not in any fashion similar to an EKG that would be able to determine an arrythmia.

  • by snowwrestler ( 896305 ) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @05:46PM (#29432025)

    Heart rate monitors cannot detect heart defects. They're simple pieces of athletic equipment that are used to get good aerobic exercise. I think it's great that PE is introducing kids to the concept.

    One of the signs of paranoia is a tendency to spin fanciful tales off the slimmest of evidence...it's not to look up what these things are if you're not familiar.

  • Its ok, relax (Score:3, Informative)

    by scubamage ( 727538 ) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @05:47PM (#29432049)
    I use a heart rate monitor every single day when I run. Most likely the school is either A) providing monitors for children to use, or B) the straps will communicate with exercise equipment. The data it reads will be for things such as heart rate thresholds, and calories burnt. Further, it will help decrease the risk that your child hurts his or her self through over-exertion. Without having their own dedicated heart rate monitor, there is no way for the child to be tied to the data. Even if there were, the data would be innocuous. From my heart rate monitor (Polar F11) you can tell when I exercised, the duration of the exercise, calories burnt, percent fat burnt, and what aerobic/anerobic zone the exercise was performed at and for how long. There is no personally identifiable information. The strap itself basically just sends out electronic pulses in time with your child's heart on a specific frequency so that it doesn't interfere with other kids' straps. The straps themselves are dumb, they have no identifying information on them. They literally do nothing but send out a pulse every time they sense a heart beat.

    I appreciate your concern, but honestly it's nothing to be worried about, millions of people around the world use heart rate monitors without any issue. I actually have to give kudos to your kids' school as well. Learning about proper anerobic/aerobic zones is pretty important when it comes to exercise. Further, be glad they're having your child purchase the strap, as opposed to using someone else's which could lead to ringworm, and a bunch of other gross fungal problems.

  • Mod Parent Up! (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @05:47PM (#29432055)
    Please, mod parent up. Knowing your precise heart rate can not only prevent future damage by overexertion, but it can also show what level you need to be at to maximize the efficiency of the time being spend exercising. It's the human body equivalent of a car's tach. Push it to the red line, you do damage. Don't get it into the power band, and you've effectively wasted the potential performance available.
  • Re:Holy shit? (Score:5, Informative)

    by MozeeToby ( 1163751 ) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @05:52PM (#29432115)

    It isn't monitoring their health status, it is monitoring their excertion level. The purpose of gym class is and always has been to keep kids active by forcing all students into activity and by teaching them about those activities (in the hope that they continue them later in life). That has been and should be the purpose. Teaching kids about maintaining heartrate and the proper level of excertion is 100% in line with those goals.

  • Re:Holy shit? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Dewin ( 989206 ) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @05:54PM (#29432177)

    I worked at an alternative school where one of our students DID have a peanut allergy -- severe enough where just smelling peanuts from someone who walked by eating a PB&J was enough to set off an allergic reaction.

    While we didn't outright ban peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, there was a fairly large portion of the campus designated as a 'peanut-free zone'. But this was at a school that had a large amount of parent involvement (and thus parents supervising their own kids.) I can certainly imagine a regular public school banning PB&J sandwiches to avoid causing a reaction if someone with extreme peanut allergies was in attendance.

  • Re:Holy shit? (Score:5, Informative)

    by GMFTatsujin ( 239569 ) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @05:57PM (#29432225) Homepage

    I'm betting it's not even that and it's just a heart rate monitor to improve the quality of aerobic exercise. I concur.

    I worked as a technical writer for a place that made HRMs. We sold to pro athletes, gyms, personal trainers, Navy seals, fitness enthusiasts of every stripe... we even had a version of the product made especially for training race horses. It was pretty cool.

    I was surprised at what a difference using one of those things made in my *own* ability to exercise. I'm an overweight writing nerd, but man: there's nothing like beeping, booping technology to get my interest. Using an HRM is like keeping score on a video game. Or playing the tomagotchi game with your body as the avatar. Or something.

    Something fun and trackable, anyway.

    The HRM went a long way toward getting me off my butt and dropping pounds because it provided metrics and feedback that I could understand and affect. That's more than my "hustle! hustle! hustle!" school coach ever managed to do.

    All this being said: I doubt that the information on your kid is going to be recorded for more than 9 weeks, honestly. There are, like, serious LAWS about that information getting off campus, too. Anybody who is into selling kids' info to Nefarious Businesses Incorporated is going to have access to a lot more dirt than just a weird blip on your child's HRM.

    That HRM, by the way, is certainly *not* medically diagnostic in quality. I'd be surprised if it did more than note the heart rate at 1 second intervals and track the changes over time. It *might* try to estimate a general sense of fitness on the heart, but it will, at best, give you a meaningless number on a scale from "is this thing on?" to "cybernetically enhanced athlete trained atop the Himalayas from birth."

    No need to worry. The poster's school's coach is probably just trying to do a great job at keeping the kids in his care interested in physical fitness. I applaud him/her for it.

  • by snowwrestler ( 896305 ) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @05:59PM (#29432247)

    Except that they are an educational institution and thus subject to FERPA rules, which also prohibit disclosure of health information to third parties.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @05:59PM (#29432259)

    There is no computer saving the data when I check my pulse with my finger.

    Who said there is? A watch like device to record heart rate can cost at least $150. multiply by 30 kids and you have a big investment. Then consider that middle schools will naturally steal and break stuff and you'd be stupid to have that equipment.

    A device that could record 30+ kids a a gym? I'd like to see that. My experience with Heart rate monitors is a range of about 10 ft.

    I'm guessing you buy the strap so it's your own sweet and not the 10 kids before you and a wrist watch like this. http://heartratemonitors.com/fs1.htm Then they can add a bit of technology to the classroom, which is all the rage these days.

    PS. check out that site to see what recording/download heart monitors cost.

  • by MartinSchou ( 1360093 ) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @06:00PM (#29432285)

    The heart rate monitor is actually a fun thing to have.

    I usually only wear it when I'm on my bike, and I do find it quite fun to see just for how long I can keep my heart rate at 170+, 175+ and 180+. I'm 32, so my target should really be around 160, but I'm still in really bad shape, so I'm constantly above that if I want to feel like I'm doing something.

    But when I started this back in June I could hit a peak of about 180 for maybe a minute before I'd feel like I was dying, and now I can hold 180+ for several minutes. My resting heart rate has dropped from about 80 (!!!) to roughly 65 as well.

    I'm using this as a fun toy, and I honestly think that if approached properly in gym, you could get the disinterested kids more interested. If you're giving them grades in gym class (btw, wtf?), don't grade them on how well they play football or whatever, as that'll take away the bad players' motivation. Grade them on how well they've done. If you're already in great shape at the start of the school year and you don't improve, give them an A. If they start in great shape and end up in bad shape, give them a C- or D or something. If they start out in lousy shape and end up in great shape (entirely doable while you're still fat) - give them an A or an A+. Start lousy and keep that - give them a C- or a D.

  • by jerzee55 ( 1274446 ) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @06:09PM (#29432455)
    Yes, I know. I am a middle school teacher, and an amazing array of messages never make it home. Most of my students don't have Internet Access at home, so email doesn't always work. My own children bring home papers, and we also get emails from their schools. You make a good point though, that parents should not overreact until they get the facts from the school...
  • by GMFTatsujin ( 239569 ) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @06:11PM (#29432481) Homepage

    The straps go around the chest.

    The chest of a middle schooler.

    A sweaty, pubescent middle schooler.

    Running around in the hot sun.

    Who is only beginning to understand about the need for personal hygiene.

    Yeah. I don't want to keep a collection of those in the same building I work in either. Ew. I think that's an OSHA violation or something.

  • by Calithulu ( 1487963 ) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @06:12PM (#29432505)

    We learned to take our pulse in grade school. After that, for me at least, there was nothing new in regards to that.

    As an adult, whenever I work out I take a heart rate monitor with me. Martial arts, archery, weight lifting, or running I like to know where I'm at. If I'm running I can back my pace down a bit to keep it at good and safe exercise levels, the same is true of martial arts.

    When it comes to weight lifting, I can rest up until my heart rate is back to a lower exertion level between sets. And believe me, when you start moving big weights your heart rate will go up in leaps and bounds during the exercise.

    Looking back, for football or other team sports I wish we had been able to use an HRM. It would have provided me the info I needed later in life to avoid putting on a lot of the weight I did (though I've subsequently lost it) since I could have used that info to figure out approximately how many calories I was burning.

  • Science works (Score:2, Informative)

    by pcsnow ( 1353993 ) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @06:27PM (#29432749)
    Dr Ratley, Harvard has documented effect of exercise in HS math based on 25 min daily exercise in target zone. http://www.learningreadinesspe.com/vid/vidmain.html [learningreadinesspe.com] NBC http://www.amazon.com/Spark-Revolutionary-Science-Exercise-Brain/dp/0316113506 [amazon.com] Naperville HS http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mens_sana_in_corpore_sano [wikipedia.org] Too much Fox news rots the brain and induces paranoia, but I forgot where that is documented.
  • Re:Holy shit? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Fulcrum of Evil ( 560260 ) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @07:34PM (#29433637)

    While I understand your point of view I also understand the point of view of parents who's kids have actually died from congenital heart defects which show themselves during physical activity. These heart monitors would alert someone before the kid actually collapsed.

    I don't. It's really rare [americanheart.org]. 1.4 per 100,000 death rate means that you have less than 1% chance of seeing it in a given school each year.

  • by coachwalters ( 653077 ) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @07:51PM (#29433831)
    I teach middle and high school PE and Health in a public school. Last year, I had the opportunity to order a set of heart rate monitors for my classes jumped at the chance. POLAR has a set designed for use in large group settings that make administering the system quite easy. Each student is assigned a watch, a monitor and strap. (The strap is a piece of elastic that attaches to the monitor and goes around the chest, and there are always clean straps available for each student). Students wear the monitors during class, while their heart rate is recorded onto the watch. Students get immediate feedback as to their heart rate and exertion level during any particular activity. Later, this data is download to a computer, for more detailed analysis. Students can see a graph of the HR data through class to identify areas of improvement. In my district, the data is used as their primary grade. If they stay in (or above) their target heart rate zone for 80% of class on a particular day, they've earned an 80% for that day. They don't get any points for being under their zone. In fact, the watch beeps like crazy when a student is out of their zone to get their attention. This system, coupled with daily aerobic and strengthening activities has dramatically improved the fitness level of my students over the course of a year. The HR data is used by me and only me. The district doesn't seem to care about HR data at this time so I wouldn't be concerned about it being filed away for later...yet. Many districts are starting PE initiatives to get kids active, and some of that energy is going into fitness testing, where scores are tracked from yer to year. My understanding is that the scores are used in an academic sense and shouldn't be used in any medical situation. PE Teachers are not doctors so any data collected from us should not be considered by any reasonable insurance company. In short, HR monitors are good for students, teachers and parents, when used properly.
  • Re:Holy shit? (Score:5, Informative)

    by jeffporcaro ( 1010187 ) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @08:31PM (#29434225)
    I'm a cardiologist; we use heart rate as a threshold when doing stress testing, but otherwise it has limited utility in measuring "exertion level." The Maximal Predicted Heart Rate [MPHR] was established in the late '60s as an observation, not a true prediction; a small sample of people was observed exercising to their subjective "maximum," and those rates were plotted. There was enormous variability; the slope of MPHR was simply the line of best fit from the scatterplot, and was estimated by the authors of the original article to likely be accurate within 30 points in either direction. A particular person's maximal heart rate is impossible to predict within any meaningful accuracy; obviously, the derived slope is even sloppy for large populations. There are many many "experts" with theories regarding what percentage of MPHR you should achieve and for how long in order to get aerobic benefit - there is almost no science on the subject. Currently in vogue (and to my eye, at least as reasonable as anything based on heart rate) is the Borg Scale of Perceived Exertion. Basically, work to a level where you consistently feel like you're exerting yourself - that's how you get feedback on your exertion level. For an excellent discussion of this, see Gina Kolata's book Ultimate Fitness (almost 10 years old, still well-researched and interesting). There's an enormous amount of misinformation and pseudoscience out there.
  • Re:Holy shit? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Profane MuthaFucka ( 574406 ) <busheatskok@gmail.com> on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @08:35PM (#29434263) Homepage Journal

    Keep them prezedents away from my childrenz! I dontz wanna get them too educated nor nothing!

    In other words, you're cute when you're wrong.

  • Re:Holy shit? (Score:3, Informative)

    by moosesocks ( 264553 ) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @08:35PM (#29434265) Homepage

    In eight states and the District of Columbia, insurance companies are allowed to deny health benefits to victims of domestic abuse, as it is considered to be a pre-existing condition [seiu.org].

    I don't care what side of the table you're on politically. That's just plain wrong (doubly so if you call yourself a Christian)

    With regard to TFA, don't forget that all of the usual medical confidentiality laws will still apply, and that it's fairly common for the school nurse to check the blood pressure, pulse, eyesight, and hearing of each student on a yearly basis. Far more information is collected via this "mini-physical" than anything that a HRM can collect. Also don't forget that it seems highly improbable for the school to take the time to archive this data, given that they're forced to run with so little overhead as it is.

    (Yes, this was covered on /. yesterday, though many of you might have missed it, given that it was posted to Idle)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @11:39PM (#29435755)

    Or, they could be like this guy and be on trial for manslaughter.

    http://www.wkyt.com/home/headlines/57036257.html [wkyt.com]

    That fat stupid fuck is the author of his own problems. He cared so much about winning football games that he killed a kid with his callous, hard-ass behavior.

    Too bad we still don't have the practice of sentencing people to hard labor in this country. I think 20 to 30 years of backbreaking work breaking rocks into gravel under the desert sun with very infrequent water breaks would do this shithead a world of hurt and do society a world of good.

  • Re:Holy shit? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Kittenman ( 971447 ) on Tuesday September 15, 2009 @11:45PM (#29435801)
    Forgive me - but your use of the apostrophe there means that you have one daughter with multiple vaginas. Slide the apostrophe over to the right of the "s", there ...

    Grammar Police: to serve and correct

Help! I'm trapped in a PDP 11/70!