What is sudden cardiac arrest?
Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is when the heart stops beating, suddenly and unexpectedly. When this happens, blood stops flowing to the brain and other vital organs. SCA doesn’t just happen to adults; it takes the lives of students, too. However, the causes of sudden cardiac arrest in students and adults can be different. A student’s SCA will likely result from an inherited condition, while an adult’s SCA may be caused by either inherited or lifestyle issues.
SCA is NOT a heart attack. A heart attack may cause SCA, but they are not the same. A heart attack is caused by a blockage that stops the flow of blood to the heart. SCA is a malfunction in the heart’s electrical system, causing the heart to suddenly stop beating.
How common is sudden cardiac arrest in the United States?
While studies have shown sudden cardiac death among young athletes is very uncommon, SCA is the #1 cause of death for student athletes.
Are there warning signs?
Although SCA happens unexpectedly, some people may have signs or symptoms, such as:
fainting or seizures during exercise;
unexplained shortness of breath;
a racing heart;
chest pain with exercise; or
These symptoms can be unclear in athletes, since people often confuse these warning signs with physical exhaustion. SCA can be prevented if the underlying causes can be diagnosed and treated.
What are the risks of practicing or playing after experiencing these symptoms?
There are risks associated with continuing to practice or play after experiencing these symptoms. When the heart stops, so does the blood that flows to the brain and other vital organs. Death or permanent brain damage can occur in just a few minutes. Most people who experience SCA die from it.
OK State Department of Health and OK State Department of Education: Sudden Cardiac Arrest Symptoms and Warning Signs
Information Sheet and Acknowledgement of Receipt and Review Form. 7/1/2015