Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Sudden cardiac arrest is the number one cause of death in the United States. It takes the lives of almost 400,000 men and women. That is more than breast cancer, lung cancer, stroke and AIDS combined. But Sudden Cardiac Arrest is not just an adult thing. It is the #1 cause of death of student athletes. It takes the lives of thousands of students every single year.


Sudden Cardiac Arrest is what happens when the heart stops beating, suddenly and unexpectedly. Out of nowhere, the heart just stops pumping blood.

This is caused by one of two problems: There may be an electrical problem. For instance, there is an extra electrical pathway, and the rhythm gets interrupted. There may be a structural problem: The heart may be too big, or the chambers and valves are in the wrong place. As a result, the heart cannot function properly. Fortunately, most of these conditions can be treated. Some students will take medication. Some may have to quit sports. For the more severe conditions, a student may need a medical procedure, medical device, or surgery.


These are warning signs of conditions can lead to sudden cardiac arrest:

  1. Fainting or seizures during exercise
  2. Unexplained shortness of breath
  3. A racing heart
  4. Dizziness
  5. Chest Pains
  6. Extreme Fatigue

1: Fainting or Seizures During Exercise

Fainting during exercise is the #1 warning sign of sudden cardiac arrest. Do not assume that the player is passing out from the heat, exhaustion, or dehydration. Additionally, if a player collapses and begins to shake, do not assume it is a seizure. Sudden cardiac arrest can cause victims to shake too. If there is no evidence of head trauma, you should assume that the player is in sudden cardiac arrest.

2: Unexplained Shortness of Breath

If players are working hard, then certainly they will be out of breath, temporarily. If they are in good shape, they will recover quickly. However, if a player cannot catch their breath, or always seems winded, this could be a sign.

3: Racing Heart.

During practice or a game, a player’s heart is going to beat fast. However, the heart should slow down in due time. If a player’s heart is racing, it feels like it is beating out of their chest, or it is really fast at the wrong time, like when they are sitting on the bench.

4: Dizziness

A player who is repeatedly dizzy may be experiencing a warning sign of sudden cardiac arrest.

5: Chest Pains

A player who complains about chest pains should be examined. Chest pains are not the same thing as cramps.

6: Extreme Fatigue

Players will be tired after a practice or game. However, this player is always tired, or consistently more tired than her teammates.

These are the six warning signs to remember. Please watch out for them during practice and games.


If a player collapses unexpectedly, and is not responsive, assume that they are in sudden cardiac arrest. This MUST BE your response.

  1. Call 911
  2. Send for an AED
  3. Start Chest Compression’s

CPR uses compression’s to keep the blood circulating through the body until emergency help arrives. You should begin chest compression’s immediately.

Be aware of:

  1. The two types of conditions that cause sudden cardiac arrest;
  2. The six warning signs of conditions that lead to sudden cardiac arrest;
  3. The game plan if your student collapses.

For more information on how to protect student-athletes from Sudden Cardiac Arrest, go to www.simonsheart.org.

Heart Health Parents and Players Fact Sheet

Heart Health Parents and Players