Student Athlete Suddent Cardiac Arrest
Sudden Cardiac Arrest
- SCA is a condition in which the heart unexpectedly stops beating, halting blood flow to the brain and vital organs.
- SCA is usually caused by an electrical disturbance in the heart that disrupts pumping, while a heart attack is caused by a blockage of blood flow to the heart.
- SCA results in death if not treated within minutes.
- 2,000 patients under age 25 die of SCA every year in the U.S., the Center for Disease Control estimates.
- The cause of SCA in athletes is unknown, however, young athletes with underlying heart conditions are at greater risk during vigorous exercise.
- Commotio Cordis is caused by a blunt, nonpenetrating blow to the chest. It includes ventricular arrhythmia in an otherwise structurally normal heart.
- Commotio Cordis accounts for approximately 20 percent of sudden cardiac deaths in young athletes.
Preparing for Cardiac Emergencies
- Schools, clubs and sports facilities should have emergency action plans that include a response plan for SCA events.
- All facilities where sports are played should have automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) within 1-3 minutes.
- Schools, clubs and sports facilities should have someone on staff trained in CPR.
- When CPR is provided and an AED shock is administered within the first 3 to 5 minutes after a collapse, reported survival rates from cardiac arrest are as high as 74%
Screening Athletes for Cardiovascular Issues
- Athletes should undergo cardiovascular screening before athletic participation.
- A minimum standard of cardiovascular screening should include a comprehensive medical history, family history and physical exam.
- An electrocardiogram (ECG) can help identify underlying cardiac conditions that put athletes at greater risk. However, it’s not a universal standard right now because of cost, physician infrastructure, and sensitivity and specificity concerns.
Signs and Symptoms of Cardiac Arrest in Athletes
- Chest, ear or neck pain
- Severe headache
- Excessive breathlessness
- Vague discomfort
- Dizziness, palpitations
- Abnormal fatigue
- Indigestion, heartburn
- Center chest pain that comes and goes
- Shortness of breath with or without discomfort
- Pressure, squeezing, fullness
- Nausea, vomiting
- Cold sweat
- Pain or discomfort in arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach
Note: Many young cardiac arrest victims have no symptoms until the cardiac arrest occurs.
Sources: NATA, Korey Stringer Institute, American Heart Association