Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) in Student-Athletes

What Is Sudden Cardiac Arrest?

Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is not a heart attack. It’s an abnormality in the heart’s electrical system that abruptly stops the heartbeat. It's caused by an undetected congenital or genetic heart condition.


First Symptom May Be Death

Possible Warning Signs: Unexplained fainting, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, chest pain, heart palpitations, family history of SCA or unexplained sudden death under the age of 50.


1 Youth Athlete Dies Every 3 Days in the United States

SCA is 60% more likely to occur during exercise or sports activity, so athletes are at greater risk. SCA is also the leading cause of death on school campuses.


Time Critical

If not properly treated within minutes, SCA is fatal in 92% of cases.


Are there warning signs?

Although SCA happens unexpectedly, some people may have signs or symptoms, such as:

  • fainting (#1 symptom of a potential heart condition)
  • chest pain
  • shortness of breath
  • racing or fluttering of heartbeat (palpitation)
  • dizziness or lightheadedness
  • extreme fatigue (tiredness)
These symptoms can be unclear and confusing in athletes. Often, people confuse these warning signs with physical exhaustion. SCA can be prevented if the underlying causes can be diagnosed and treated.
 
How are student-athletes being protects?

California passed the Eric Paredes Sudden Cardiac Arrest Prevention Act in 2016 to protect students participating in school-sponsored athletic activities. New policy adds SCA training to coach certification and new protocol that empowers coaches to remove from play a student who exhibits fainting, and potentially for other conditions if they are believed to be cardiac related. Student athletes must be evaluated and cleared by a physician, surgeon, nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant to return to play. Student athletes and parents/guardians review and sign an SCA Information sheet as part of their annual sports packet.


Resources

NFHS Sudden Cardiac Arrest Course (Free)

SCA Flyer/ SCA Flyer (Spanish)

SCA Fact Sheet / SCA Fact Sheet (Spanish)

SCA Risks and Symptoms

Cardiac Chain of Survival

Parent/Athlete Team Meeting Handout

SCA Parent/Student Review Form

A Parents Guide to Sudden Cardiac Arrest (Video)

Video for Parent/Athlete Seasonal Team Meeting

Cardiac Chain of Survival Video

Eric Paredes Save a Life Foundation