Sudden Cardiac Arrest in Student Athletes: Know the Risk Factors


ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — The effects of sudden cardiac arrest can be quick and deadly. The condition happens when there’s an abnormality in the heart’s electrical system that abruptly stops the heartbeat. It may sound like it’s a disease that only affects adults, but sudden cardiac arrest is one of the leading causes of death for student athletes. Ivanhoe has the risk factors parents need to know.

Sports is a great way to get kids moving, but did you know there may be a silent condition among student athletes that could put them at risk for sudden death?

Gul Dadlani, MD, Chief of Pediatric Cardiology, Nemours Children’s Hospital says,

“One in 300 will carry a form of cardiovascular disease that predisposes them to have a risk of sudden cardiac arrest.”

If not treated properly within minutes, sudden cardiac arrest is fatal in 92 percent of cases. School physicals are designed to check if a student athlete is fit to play, but …

Physician Assistant Shawn Sima states, “There are studies that show that 90 to 96 percent of things that are going to kill our kids are missed on that standard physical.”

So, what symptoms should parents look for?

Doctor Dadlani explains, “Having chest pain, shortness of breath or becomes dizzy and passes out with exercise. Those are always red flags.”

But most don’t experience any symptoms at all before sudden cardiac arrest. So, the best form of prevention is to get your child an EKG screening, which is not included in a standard physical.

“An EKG enhances detection of forms of cardiovascular disease that can cause sudden cardiac arrest. EKG screening is a very simple, cost-effective test that can save lives.”

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, every year around two thousand people 25 years and younger die of sudden cardiac arrest. Pediatricians recommend parents get an EKG screening for their child no matter if they are an athlete or not and they can do so by requesting one during a clinical visit or adding it to a sport’s physical. MDsave says the EKG average cost is about 200 dollars.

Contributors to this news report include: Milvionne Chery, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor and Videographer


American Academy of Pediatrics


REPORT #2982

BACKGROUND: Sudden cardiac arrest, or SCA, is a condition where the heart suddenly stops beating and the blood stops flowing to the brain and other vital organs. This usually causes death within minutes if it is not treated right away. However, treatment with a defibrillator can be lifesaving. An SCA can happen when the heart’s electrical system is not working right and causes irregular heartbeats, called arrhythmias. There are different types of arrythmias that may cause the heart to beat too fast, too slow, or with an irregular rhythm. An SCA can happen without warning and requires immediate treatment. They are rarely diagnosed with medical tests as it’s happening. Instead, it is usually diagnosed after it happens. Doctors will rule out other causes of a person’s attack and may refer you to a cardiologist, or doctor who specializes in heart diseases. The cardiologist will run various tests to see how well your heart is working, then decide whether you need treatment to prevent SCA.


KNOWING SCA DANGERS IN ATHLETES: SCA is the number one cause of sudden death for young athletes. If not treated within minutes, the athlete will die or be left with serious brain damage. About 1 or 2 in every 100,000 young athletes experience SCA each year, and males are at greater risk than females. In fact, African American athletes are at greater risk than Caucasian athletes, and the risk seems to be higher in football and men’s basketball. It is required to have a comprehensive medical history and physical exam for all young athletes before they participate in sports. However, this evaluation has shown limited effectiveness to detect at-risk conditions. Some experts are adding a screening electrocardiogram (EKG) to the standard pre-participation physical evaluation with hopes to improve detection of heart abnormalities that may increase an athlete’s risk of SCA. Some signs to be aware of include fainting or passing out during exercise; chest pain with exercise; excessive shortness of breath with exercise; palpitations (heart racing) for no reason; and unexplained seizures.


GAME CHANGER FOR ATHLETES: Physicians are realizing that cardiac issues can be managed to help patients continue playing sports. Research from Elijah Behr, MD, a cardiologist at Mayo Clinic Healthcare in London has assessed the actual risks of cardiac arrest in young athletes with heart conditions, which includes discoveries about long QT syndrome, a heart rhythm disorder that can cause fast, chaotic heartbeats. One device that can help athletes return to play after cardiac arrest is an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator. It takes electronic readings from the heart and determines whether a life-threatening rhythm is occurring, then delivers an electrical shock to return the heart rhythm to normal. “It is possible, if there has only been minor damage to the heart or no damage at all, for an athlete to return to normal functioning and performance. It very much depends on the condition and its severity,” Dr. Behr says. Research into sudden death in young athletes and nonathletes has suggested that it may be twice as frequent in athletes and is thought to be because of extreme exertion in people with underlying heart conditions.


* For More Information, Contact:                         Margot Winick

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