Guidelines Target Prevention of Sudden Heart Death in Young Athletes

WEDNESDAY, April 4 (HealthDay News) -- Guidelines to help high school and college officials prepare for and deal with sudden cardiac arrest in young athletes are published in the April issue of the journal Heart Rhythm.

Sudden cardiac arrest, which occurs when the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops working, is the leading cause of death in young athletes.

About 95 percent of people of all ages who suffer sudden cardiac arrest die before they reach a hospital or receive some other source of emergency help, according to background information in the article. Overall, sudden cardiac arrest claims more than 460,000 lives in the United States each year.

Prompt recognition of sudden cardiac arrest, early activation of the emergency medical service system, the presence of a trained rescuer to initiate CPR, and access to an automated external defibrillator are essential to ensure that young athletes who suffer sudden cardiac arrest receive immediate treatment in the critical few minute after they collapse, said the consensus statement developed by an inter-association task force sponsored by the National Athletic Trainers' Association.

"Being able to recognize sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is the critical first step to potentially saving the athlete's life," statement lead author Dr. Jonathan Drezner, associate director of Hall Health Sports Medicine at the University of Washington in Seattle, said in a prepared statement.

"SCA can be mistaken for other causes of collapse, so responders should assume it's SCA until proven otherwise," Drezner said.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about sudden cardiac arrest.

SOURCE: Heart Rhythm Society, news release, April 2, 2007