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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.

What Causes Sudden Cardiac Arrest?

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
  • Family member with early onset heart disease or sudden death from heart condition before the age of 40

How to Prevent and Treat Sudden Cardiac Arrest?

Some heart conditions at risk for SCA can be detected by a thorough heart screening evaluation. However, all schools and teams should be prepared to respond to a cardiac emergency. Young student athletes who suffer SCA are collapsed and unresponsive and may appear to have brief seizure-like activity or abnormal breathing (gasping). SCA can be effectively treated by immediate recognition, prompt CPR, and quick access to an Automated External Defibrillator (AED). AEDs are safe, portable devices that read and analyze the heart rhythm and provide an electric shock (if necessary) to restore a normal heart rhythm. Remember, to save a life: recognize SCA, call 9-1-1, begin CPR, and use an AED as soon as possible!

1. RECOGNIZE SCA

  • Collapsed and unresponsive
  • Abnormal breathing
  • Seizure-like activity

2. CALL 9-1-1

  • Call for help and for an AED

3. CPR

  • Begin chest compressions
  • Push hard/ push fast (100 per minute)

4. AED

  • Use AED as soon as possible

5. CONTINUE CARE

  • Continue CPR and AED until EMS arrives

BSD Agreement

The Bellevue School District believes participation in athletics improves physical fitness, coordination, self-discipline, and gives students valuable opportunities to learn important social and life skills. With this in mind it is important that we do as much as possible to create and maintain an enjoyable and safe environment. Therefore, it is important to recognize the vital role every parent, guardian and student plays in protecting participants and helping them get the best from sport.

Player and parental education in this area is crucial, which is the reason BSD families receive Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness information when registering a student for an athletics program. This information, in an agreement form, must be signed annually by the parent/guardian and student athlete prior to participation in BSD athletics. Please contact the school’s Athletics Direct with any questions regarding SCA. Click here for a printable SCA Information Sheet and refer to it regularly.

Additional Resources