Sudden Cardiac Arrest and Young Athletes


Sudden Cardiac Arrest & Young Athletes

During National Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month in October, Close the Gap joins other organizations dedicated to educating the public about what sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is and who is at risk. We want to take a special time out to draw awareness to a group of Americans that may not be aware they're at risk.

Think Again About Who's at Risk for SCA

Of the more than 350,000 deaths that occur as a result of SCA each year, you might assume that only older adults need worry about this deadly condition. Think again. Sudden cardiac arrest is the leading cause of death in young athletes.1 Most often, the death occurs during athletic training or competition.

What is Sudden Cardiac Arrest?

Often just called cardiac arrest, sudden cardiac arrest occurs suddenly and often without warning. Electrical problems in the heart cause a dangerously fast heart rate that interrupts blood flow. With pumping disrupted, the heart cannot pump blood to the body's vital organs. Within seconds, a person loses consciousness and has no pulse.  If SCA is not treated immediately, it can lead to sudden cardiac death (SCD) within minutes. 

SCA & Young Athletes: The Facts

  • In the United States, a young competitive athlete dies suddenly every three days.1
  • Young athletes are more than twice as likely to experience SCD than young non-athletes.3
  • Most victims are male (90%).4,5
  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM)is the leading cardiovascular cause of SCD (36%) in young athletes.2 (HCM is a disease that causes thickening of the heart muscle.) 
  • More than half of HCM sudden death victims are black athletes (52%).2,4
  • The average age when SCD occurs in young athletes is 17.5 years.4
  • The risk of SCD increases with age.1
  • More than two thirds of young athletes who die suddenly are basketball and football players (67%).2

Team Up to Save Athlete's Lives

Coaches can help young athletes by setting programs in place to help prevent sudden cardiac death. It starts by screening students for SCA and knowing the risk factors. If a student is at risk for any reason, the coach should refer them to a doctor for cardiac testing. 

Learn more and download screening questions

What's Your Risk?

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Who's At Risk

Certain populations are at a greater risk for heart disease.

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