Scouts-L Mail Archive for June of 1999: FW: Out of shape scout
FW: Out of shape scout
Wed, 2 Jun 1999 22:35:02 -0400
The situation that you describe is one that should make you and every leader
in your unit worry. This young man is giving warning signs that he is not
sufficiently fit to participate in rigorous outdoor activity and may not be
able to even do moderate activities.
Gross obesiety places an additional strain on the circulatory system and
specifically the heart. The chest clutching may be angina, an important
warning sign. The inability to walk without rest for more than a few steps
suggests he really may be laboring just to breath.
If I were in your shoes I would be alarmed. True the father and apparently
the doctor are not concerned. But if this boy drops dead on the trail, they
are not going to be your friends. Call your Scout Service Center and ask to
talk with the Scout Executive. Explain that you have a Scout with physical
symptoms that are very troubling and ask whether it might be possible for
you to consult with the Council physician (usually there is a local doctor
that volunteers as a health & safety advisor on the Council risk assessment
committee). If not, ask if you can consult with the doctor serving the
Council's camp. Your role in consulting will be to report the symptoms that
you have observed and to seek advice on what you may want to do regarding
activities and the boy. In all likelihood the doctor will want to consult
with the boy's family doctor and relay the information. This may help the
family doctor to reassess whether the boy needs medical assistance and
whether he ought to be certified on his medical. This is a pure and simple
One other aspect that may be present in a case like this is parental
neglect. This is the second reason why you need to call the Scout Executive
and not one of the junior people in the office. If under the laws of your
state, it is a form of child abuse to fail to provide a child with adequate
medical care, then this matter may have a more serious impact.
In my years in Scouting I've seen more than a few really large young fellows
in the range of 200 to 350 pounds. None of them experienced near the level
of difficulty you've described. All of them got winded a little more
easily, sweat a whole lot more, and liked winter camping over summer
camping, but moved out at a good clip without chest clutching or the need to
constantly sit down. You are seeing warning signals that are there to be
heeded. It may be that the father doesn't understand the significance and
that the doctor didn't know about the boy's behavior under physical stress.
Because it is likely (from what you've said) that the father will not take
action, you need to take action to protect both the boy and yourself. Talk
to your Scout Executive. The last thing he, you or any of us want is to
hear about a boy whose health warning signs were ignored and who later died
on the trail because he was too heavy to move quickly enough to get to
emergency care in time.
Note: To other readers - please do not construe this as an attack on large
boys or a statement that they need to be treated differently. This is not
the case. This is in response to a specific situation. And for those who
know me, you also know that I am not exactly a small person and never was.
I was one of those xtra-husky boys in youth.
Mike Bowman, Vice President
U.S. Scouting Service Project, Inc.