What is Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA)?

According to the Mayo Clinic, sudden cardiac arrest is the sudden, unexpected loss of heart function, breathing, and consciousness. Sudden cardiac arrest usually results from an electrical disturbance in your heart that disrupts its pumping action, stopping blood flow to the rest of your body.

Sudden cardiac arrest is different from a heart attack, which occurs when blood flow to a portion of the heart is blocked. However, a heart attack can sometimes trigger an electrical disturbance that leads to sudden cardiac arrest.
 

 
 

Impact of Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA)

Watch this video from Good Morning America on the devastating effects of cardiac arrest, and be sure to read further to learn the signs and possible symptoms as well as how to react during a cardiac arrest. It could save a life. 



 



Fast Facts

   
  • Currently, only about 30 percent of victims of  sudden cardiac arrest (out-of-hospital) receive any type of CPR. Most untrained bystanders hesitate to help a cardiac arrest victim; however, research has shown that when bystanders have CPR training, they are much more likely to take action.
 
  • In the United States, sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) affects more than 300,000 people annually and is the leading cause of death each year killing more than breast cancer, lung cancer, and HIV/AIDS combined.
 
  • Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is the leading cause of death in exercising young athletes. | Drezner JA. Preparing for sudden cardiac arrest: the essential role of automated external defibrillators in athletic medicine: a critical review. Br J Sports Med. 2009
   
 
  • The incidence of out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrest in high school athletes ranges from .28 to one death per 100,000 high school athletes annually in the U.S. | American Heart Association. CPR statistics. www.heart.org/HEARTORG/CPRAndECC/WhatisCPR/CPRFactsandStats/CPRpercent20Statistics_UCM_307542_Article.jsp
 
 
 

Prevention

Coaches and parents should take the following steps to protect athletes from cardiac arrest:

Parents:  

Training: Ensure coaches, staff, and athletes are being trained in proper safe procedures for cardiac arrest (and other sports related injuries such as concussions, overuse injuries, and heat illness). If coaches have not completed courses on safety, such as CPR, AED (Automatic External Defibrillator) training, and first aid refresher training, involve other parents and school officials to advocate for training.
 
Policies:  Every school, institution, or athletic program should have a written and structured emergency action plan (EAP) that involves local EMS officials and is specific to the venue.  The proper management of SCA should make the assumption that athletes who collapse and are unresponsive are victims of SCA until proven otherwise. Check out this emergency action plan from the National Athletic Trainer’s Association.

Form a Committee: Get together with other parents and form a safety committee to conduct regular safety meetings at practices and games to talk about sudden cardiac arrest (and other injury risks)  to other parents and athletes in order to promote safe behaviors and play techniques. Encourage students to speak up when they are showing signs of cardiac arrest rather than keeping quiet. Hand out informational materials, such as fact sheets on symptoms of cardiac arrest to help with early detection and delivery of emergency care.

Be an Expert. Don’t solely rely on the knowledge of coaches or other parents when making decisions for your child.  Know the facts, so that you can accurately identify signs of cardiac arrest and how to respond if your child experiences one. Don’t wait for coaches or staff to respond in an emergency.     

Tips for Parents
  • Make sure your teen athlete gets the recommended AHA screening.
You may need to request this at an annual exam if this is not already part of the process. Less than 6 percent of doctors said they completely follow national sudden cardiac death screening guidelines during physicals for high school athletes (heart.org)
  • Pay serious attention to any symptoms.
Heart problems that lead to cardiac arrest can produce signs, such as chest pain and blackouts (especially with exertion), fainting, palpitations or fluttering of the heart, becoming easily fatigued, weakness, dizziness, and shortness of breath.
  • Push for access to automated external defibrillators (AEDs).
These should be available at school and all sporting events and practices.
AEDs are also available at some workplaces and public buildings. You don't have to be a doctor to use them -- they come with instructions. Once attached to the victim, they will diagnose and treat rhythm abnormalities automatically.

 

Coaches 

Get Trained! Make sure you learn the basics of cardiac arrest, CPR, AED (Automatic External Defibrillator) training, and general first aid. Both the American Red Cross and American Heart Association offer training in these areas.


Policies:  Every school, institution, or athletic program should have a written and structured emergency action plan (EAP) that involves local EMS officials and is specific to the venue.  The proper management of SCA should make the assumption that athletes who collapse and are unresponsive are victims of SCA until proven otherwise. Check out this emergency action plan from the National Athletic Trainer’s Association.

Educate Parents: You are not alone in your desire to implement safe play. Get other parents involved! See if some parents are willing to form a safety committee to educate other parents on safe play and techniques as well as to hand out informational materials at practices and games.

Tips for coaches: 
Parents may need to request this at an annual exam. Less than 6 percent of doctors said they completely follow national sudden cardiac death screening guidelines during physicals for high school athletes (heart.org).
  • Pay serious attention to any symptoms in athletes.
Heart problems that lead to cardiac arrest can produce signs, such as chest pain and blackouts (especially with exertion), fainting, palpitations or fluttering of the heart, becoming easily fatigued, weakness, dizziness, and shortness of breath. Watch your athletes for these signs and ask them to follow up with a doctor.
  • Push for access to automated external defibrillators (AEDs).
These should be available at school and all sporting events and practices.
You don't have to be a doctor to use them -- they come with instructions. Once attached to the victim, they will diagnose and treat rhythm abnormalities automatically.
 
 
 Promote a Safety First Attitude: Look for ways to emphasize safe play. Take kids out of practice or the game with any signs of injury. Reinforce speaking up when hurt and discourage other athletes from teasing teammates for sitting out due to an injury.  

 

References:

www.suddencardiaarrest.org
 
www.webmed.com   


 

Symptoms 

Sudden cardiac arrest symptoms are often immediate, giving little warning, and are drastic.
  • Sudden collapse
  • No pulse
  • No breathing
  • Loss of consciousness
Rarely, other signs and symptoms precede sudden cardiac arrest. These may include fatigue, fainting, blackouts, dizziness, chest pain, shortness of breath, weakness, palpitations or vomiting. But sudden cardiac arrest often occurs with no warning. 

 
 

What to do if you Suspect Cardiac Arrest?

Tips from the Mayo Clinic
  • Call 911, or the emergency number in your area, if you encounter someone who has collapsed or is found unresponsive. If the unconscious person is a child and you're alone, administer CPR, or chest compressions only, for two minutes before calling 911 or emergency medical help or before using a portable defibrillator.
  • Perform CPR. Quickly check the unconscious person's breathing. If he or she isn't breathing normally, begin CPR. Push hard and fast on the person's chest — about 100 compressions a minute. If you've been trained in CPR, check the person's airway and deliver rescue breaths after every 30 compressions. If you haven't been trained, just continue chest compressions. Allow the chest to rise completely between compressions. Keep doing this until a portable defibrillator is available or emergency personnel arrive.
  • Use a portable defibrillator, if one is available. Early defibrillation is essential and a target goal of less than 3-5 minutes from time of collapse to first shock is strongly recommended. You don't have to be a doctor to use them -- they come with instructions. Once attached to the victim, they will diagnose and treat rhythm abnormalities automatically.
 
Check out this emergency action plan from the National Athletic Trainer’s Association, for step-by-step procedures a sudden cardiac arrest, including varying instructions for a lone responder, or multiple responders on the scene. 

 

 

Additional Resources

Guidelines for Preparedness and Management of Sudden Cardiac Arrest Among High School and College Athletes

http://www.nata.org/News%20Release/guidelines-prevent-sudden-death-secondary-school-athletics-programs

www.suddencardiacarrest.org  

www.mayoclinic.org
 
www.heart.org 

Resources and Tools from American Heart Association 


 


In The News

http://newsroom.heart.org/news/few-doctors-follow-sudden-cardiac-217740
 
 
http://www.soccernation.com/rockville-centre-soccer-club-wants-to-save-lives-cms-5525 

http://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/health/2014/04/11/saved-screening-teen-becomes-advocate/7582675/



 

 
This information does not offer medical advice or make any medical claims. Nothing contained in this information is intended to constitute professional advice for medical diagnosis or treatment. 
Please seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding concussions or other youth injuries.