Cardiac Arrest and Young Athletes (Part I)

Of the more than 300,000 deaths that happen as a result of SCA (sudden cardiac arrest) every year, you might think that only older adults need to be concerned about this deadly condition. Think again. Sudden cardiac arrest is the top cause of death in young athletes. Most often, the death happens during competition or training.

What is SCA? 

Also known as just cardiac arrest, sudden cardiac arrest happens quickly and usually without warning. Electrical issues in the heart creates a dangerously fast heart rate that disturbs blood flow. With pumping disturbed, the heart can’t pump blood to the body’s organs. Within seconds, a person loses consciousness and doesn’t have a pulse.  If SCA isn’t treated ASAP, it can lead to death within minutes.

Fabrice Muamba, a professional soccer player in Britain, collapsed during a game after suffering cardiac arrest. He’s now up and walking. Another soccer player was not so lucky. He died a few days after suffering cardiac arrest during a match. Other professional soccer players around the globe have died in recent years from cardiac-related incidents. Not a year goes by without news of a marathoner who died in a race due to cardiac arrest. There are other athletes, even in high school, who have died from SCA.

A heart attack is a plumbing issue. An artery going to the heart becomes blocked, typically from cholesterol build-up and the part of the heart muscle that is fed by that artery becomes destroyed.

Cardiac arrest is an electrical issue. The natural rhythm of the heart that makes every heart beat that you have either just entirely stops and is electrically silent, or it get so erratic and fast that your heart muscle just can’t keep up with all the electrical signals, So, it just quivers and shakes. It can’t produce any pumping output.