There’s no doubt that exercise is beneficial to both body and mind, but for those with existing, undiagnosed cardiac conditions, it can be fatal. This is especially true for athletes who engage in vigorous or competitive exercise that requires them to perform at their peak. According to the American College of Cardiology, there are around 100 to 150 Sudden Cardiac Deaths (SCDs) that occur in competitive sports in the United States each year.
Though SCD is more likely to occur in the general, non-athlete population, an athlete — seemingly at the peak of their health — who passes away unexpectedly will have a widespread emotional impact on society.
This blog post will unpack symptoms to look out for, as well as how gym and sports field facilities can prepare for cardiac arrest in athletes.
Symptoms of cardiac arrest in athletes
SCD is a lurking disease that often only presents itself with sudden death, as highlighted in the Methodist Debakey Cardiovascular Journal. In athletes under the age of 35, hereditary cardiac conditions and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy are the two dominant causes of SCD in the United States. For athletes over 35, the research concluded that acquired coronary artery diseases (CAD) were the chief cause of SCD.
While it’s difficult to predict and diagnose cardiac arrest in athletes before the event, a number of preceding symptoms have been reported.
Leading up to SCD, up to 30% of athletes have been reported to have suffered:
- Shortness of breath
- A decline in performance
- Heart palpitations
- Chest discomfort
- A general feeling of weakness
- Lightheadedness or fainting
If any of the above should present themselves in an athlete, it’s vital that a team of sports medicine and cardiology physicians assess the situation quickly. However, in the event of SCD at a sports facility, there are measures that facility managers can put in place to give athletes the best chance of survival.
The importance of having AEDs in gyms, fields, and courses
There are many success stories about AED treatment in sports. Here is one of them, as reported on in this article by UNC Health Care:
“During a game of basketball in his father’s gym class, Cameron Burley’s heart stopped. Thankfully, his school had an AED on-site for just such an event. While Cameron’s father performed CPR on his son, the school nurse hooked him up to the AED. One shock was enough to get Cameron to take a deep breath and return from the brink of death.”
Automatic External Defibrillators (AEDs) are central to the treatment of cardiac problems. But what a recent study highlights is how vital it is they are on-hand and easily accessible during competitive sporting events. According to Sports Health, a total of 132 cases of sudden cardiac arrests were researched over a two-year period in the United States. The overall survival rate was 48%. But where an AED was available for quick resuscitation, 89% of athletes made it through the trauma and survived.
An on-site AED is just part of the rescue plan
Having an on-site AED is not enough. Managers need to ensure the equipment is functional and that a trained volunteer responder is always available to administer treatment. While it sounds simple enough, the process of setting up and maintaining a successful AED program is actually quite complex.
PlusTrac’s™ AED program management makes sure you’re ready, compliant, and fully documented. The program also offers in-person and online training from our national network of experienced, certified trainers to ensure your volunteer responders have the competence and confidence they need to save lives.
Make sure that you are prepared to give the athletes at your facility a chance to be part of that 89% who survive a sudden cardiac arrest. Register here to start your free trial.