Medical Moment: Sudden cardiac arrests in student athletes

Published: Aug. 4, 2022 at 5:37 PM EDT
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(WNDU) - The effects of sudden cardiac arrest can be quick and deadly.

The condition happens when there’s an abnormality in the heart’s electrical system that abruptly stops the heartbeat.

It may sound like it’s a disease that only affects adults, but sudden cardiac arrest is one of the leading causes of death for student athletes.

Sports is a great way to get kids moving, but did you know there may be a silent condition among student athletes that could put them at risk for sudden death?

“One in 300 will carry a form of cardiovascular disease that predisposes them to have a risk of sudden cardiac arrest,” Gul Dadlani, MD, Chief of Pediatric Cardiology at Nemours Children’s Hospital.

If not treated properly within minutes, sudden cardiac arrest is fatal in 92 percent of cases. School physicals are designed to check if a student athlete is fit to play, however...

“There are studies that show that 90 to 96 percent of things that are going to kill our kids are missed on that standard physical,” said Shawn Sima, a physician assistant.

So, what symptoms should parents look for?

“Having chest pain, shortness of breath, or becomes dizzy and passes out with exercise,” Dr. Dadlani said. “Those are always red flags.”

But most don’t experience any symptoms at all before sudden cardiac arrest. So, the best form of prevention is to get your child an EKG screening, which is not included in a standard physical.

“An EKG enhances detection of forms of cardiovascular disease that can cause sudden cardiac arrest. EKG screening is a very simple, cost-effective test that can save lives,” Dr. Dadlani explained.

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