Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is the
sudden onset of an abnormal and lethal heart rhythm, causing the heart to stop
beating and the individual to collapse. SCA is the leading cause of death in the U.S.
afflicting over 300,000 individuals per year.
SCA is also the leading cause of sudden death
in young athletes during sports.
SCA in young athletes is usually caused by
a structural or electrical disorder of the heart. Many of these
conditions are inherited (genetic) and can develop as an adolescent or young adult.
SCA is more likely during exercise or physical activity, placing
student-athletes with undiagnosed heart conditions at greater risk. SCA also can occur
from a direct blow to the chest by a firm projectile (baseball, softball, lacrosse ball, or
hockey puck) or by chest contact from another player
(called “commotio cordis”).
While a heart condition may have no warning signs, some young athletes may have
symptoms but neglect to tell an adult. If any of the following symptoms are present, a
cardiac evaluation by a physician is recommended:
· Passing out during exercise
· Chest pain with exercise
· Excessive shortness of breath with exercise
· Palpitations (heart racing for no reason)
· Unexplained seizures
· A family member with early onset heart disease or sudden death from a heart
condition before the age of 40.