What is Sudden Cardiac Arrest & Sudden Cardiac Death?

Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is the leading cause of death in young athletes while training or participating in sport competition. Even athletes who appear healthy and have a normal pre-participation screening may have underlying heart abnormalities that can be life threatening. SCA is 60% more likely to occur during exercise or sports activity, so athletes are at greater risk. Sudden Cardiac Arrest occurs suddenly and without warning. It is caused when the electrical system to the heart malfunctions, resulting in a disruption of the heart’s normal rhythm and the loss of its ability to deliver blood to the body. If untreated within minutes, this abrupt disruption results in Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD) which affects more than 7,000 young adults annually.

Did You Know?

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#1 Killer

Sudden Cardiac Death is the number 1  killer of student athletes in the USA.

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1 in 300

1 in 300 youth has a hidden heart condition that can lead to Sudden Cardiac Death.

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Only 4%

Today, traditional Pre- Participation Evaluation/sports physicals are detecting only 4% of these conditions.

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SCD is Preventable

In Italy, screening of all student athletes has reduced the number of sudden cardiac deaths by more than 90%!

Symptoms/Warning signs of Sudden Cardiac Arrest

1 in 300 youth has underlaying conditions that put them at risk for Sudden Cardiac Arrest, but often they are unaware of their condition and has not experienced any obvious warning signs. But according to a study published by the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine (2012), 72% of students that suffered from SCA were reported by their parents to have had at least one cardiovascular symptom before SCA. They just didn’t recognize it as life threatening. That’s why it’s important to understand potential warnings of SCA:



Unusual fatigue/weakness

Chest Pain

Shortness of breath



Family History

ANY of these symptoms/warning signs that occur while exercising may necessitate further evaluation from your physician before returning to practice or a game. ** Note that a student-athlete who exhibits unexplained fainting may be SCA because it is the number one warning sign of a potential heart condition.

How to Reactively Act in case of Sudden Cardiac Arrest?

There is potential for effective reactive prevention of sudden cardiac death by having automated external defibrillators (AEDs) easily accessible and trained staff available. The presence of trained individuals and access to AEDs at sporting venues provides a potential means of early defibrillation, not only for athletes but also for spectators, coaches, officials, event staff and other attendees in the case of sudden cardiac arrest.

It is advisable to have an Emergency Action Plan in place for all sport practice and competition sites that outlines the plan of action in case of the collapse of an athlete. It is advisable to review and practice the emergency action plan with respective school personnel, coaches, on site medical personnel and local EMS.

Awareness, knowledge, & screenings save lives

Screening using an electrocardiogram (ECG) and/or an echocardiogram can detect student athletes at risk for conditions that can lead to Sudden Cardiac Arrest, and IHSA is working to ensure that screening programs are ready available to all athletes. The American Heart Association recommends also a pre‐participation history and physical including 12 important cardiac elements. The IHSA Pre‐Participation Physical Evaluation – Medical History form has been updated to include these important cardiac elements.

How we can be proactive

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Partner Up

We partner up with other organization and people to spread awareness and support.

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Raise Awareness

Raise awareness in youth, parents, and the community.

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Improve Training & Guidelines

Improve know how and capabilities through training and guidelines.

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Cardiac Screenings

Increase and improve cardiac screening of active youth.

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We leverage existing programs and improve them.

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Provide Funding

We avail ourselves for funding and resources locally, statewide, and nationwide.