A Fact Sheet for Youth Sports Parents
This sheet has information to help protect your children or teens from Sudden Cardiac Arrest
Why do heart conditions that put kids at risk go undetected?
While a youth may display no warning signs of a heart condition, studies do show that symptoms are typically present but go unrecognized, unreported, missed or misdiagnosed.
Symptoms can be misinterpreted as typical in active youth.
- Protect Your Kid’s Heart
- Educate yourself about sudden cardiac arrest, talk with your kids about warning signs, and create a culture of prevention in your youth’s sports organization.
- Know the warning signs
- Document your family’s heart health history as some conditions can be inherited
- If symptoms/risk factors present, ask your doctor for follow-up heart/genetic testing
- Don’t just “check the box” on health history forms—ask your youth how they feel
- Take a cardiac risk assessment with your youth each season
- Encourage youth to speak up if any of the symptoms are present
- Check in with your coach to see if they’ve noticed any warning signs
- Active youth should be shaping up, not breaking down
- As a parent on the sidelines, know the cardiac chain of survival
- Be sure your school and sports organizations comply with state law to have administrators, coaches and officials trained to respond to a cardiac emergency
- Help fund an onsite AED
Fainting is often mistakenly attributed to stress, heat, or lack of food or water
- Youth experiencing symptoms regularly don’t recognize them as unusual – it’s their normal
- Symptoms are not shared with an adult because youth are embarrassed they can’t keep up
Youth mistakenly think they’re out of shape and just need to train harder
- Youth (or their parents) don’t want to jeopardize playing time
- Youth ignore symptoms thinking they’ll just go away
- Adults assume youth are OK and just “check the box” on health forms without asking them
Medical practitioners and parents alike often miss warning signs
Families don’t know or don’t report heart health history or warning signs to their medical practitioner
- Well-child exams and sports physicals do not check for conditions that can put youth at risk
- Stethoscopes are not a comprehensive diagnostic test for heart conditions
What happens if my child has warning signs or risk factors?
● State law requires youth who faint or exhibit other cardio-related symptoms to be re-cleared to play by a licensed medical practitioner.
● Ask your health care provider for diagnostic or genetic testing to rule out a possible heart condition.
Electrocardiograms (ECG or EKG) record the electrical activity of the heart. ECGs have been shown to detect a majority of heart conditions more effectively than physical and health history alone. Echocardiograms (ECHO) capture a live picture of the heart.
● Your youth should be seen by a health care provider who is experienced in evaluating cardiovascular (heart) conditions.
● Follow your providers instructions for recommended activity limitations until testing is complete.
What if my youth is diagnosed with a heart condition that puts them at risk?
There are many precautionary steps that can be taken to prevent the onset of SCA including activity modifications, medication, surgical treatments, or implanting a pacemaker and/or implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD). Your practitioner should discuss the treatment options with you and any recommended activity modifications while undergoing treatment. In many cases, the abnormality can be corrected and youth can return to normal activity.
What is Sudden Cardiac Arrest?
Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is a life-threatening emergency that occurs when the heart suddenly stops beating. It strikes people of all ages who may seem to be healthy, even children and teens. When SCA happens, the person collapses and doesn’t respond or breathe normally. They may gasp or shake as if having a seizure, but their heart has stopped. SCA leads to death in minutes if the person does not get help right away. Survival depends on people nearby calling 911, starting CPR, and using an automated external defibrillator (AED) as soon as possible.
RECOGNIZE THE WARNING SIGNS & RISK FACTORS
- Ask Your Coach and Consult Your
- Doctor if These Conditions are
- Present in Your Youth
- Potential Indicators That SCA May Occur
- Fainting or seizure, especially during or right after exercise
- Fainting repeatedly or with excitement or startle
- Excessive shortness of breath during exercise
- Racing or fluttering heart palpitations or irregular heartbeat
- Repeated dizziness or lightheadedness
- Chest pain or discomfort with exercise
- Excessive, unexpected fatigue during or after exercise
How COMMON is SCA?
As a leading cause of death in the U.S., most people are surprised to learn that SCA is also the #1 killer of student athletes and the leading cause of death on school campuses. Studies show that 1 in 300 youth has an undetected heart condition that puts them at risk.
IS THE #1 SYMPTOM
OF A HEART CONDITION
What CAUSES SCA?
SCA occurs because of a malfunction in the heart’s electrical system or structure. The malfunction is caused by an abnormality the person is born with, and may have inherited, or a condition that develops as young hearts grow. A virus in the heart or a hard blow to the chest can also cause a malfunction that can lead to SCA.
Factors That Increase the Risk of SCA
- Family history of known heart abnormalities or sudden death before age 50
- Specific family history of Long QT Syndrome, Brugada Syndrome, Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, or Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia (ARVD)
- Family members with known unexplained fainting, seizures, drowning or near drowning or car accidents
- Family members with known structural heart abnormality, repaired or unrepaired
- Use of drugs, such as cocaine, inhalants, “recreational” drugs, excessive energy drinks, diet pills or performance-enhancing supplements
Cardiac Chain of Survival
- Their life depends on your quick action!
- CPR can triple the chance of survival.
- Start immediately and use the onsite AED.
KeepTheirHeartInTheGame.org A Fact Sheet for Youth Sports Parents. This sheet has information to help protect your children or teens from Sudden Cardiac Arrest To learn more, go to KeepTheirHeartInTheGame.org. Get free tools to help create a culture of prevention at home, in school, on the field and at the doctor’s office. Discuss the warning signs of a possible heart condition with your child or teen and have each person sign below.
Detach this section below and return to your sports organization/LA’s BEST. Keep the fact sheet to use at your kids’ games and practices to help protect them from Sudden Cardiac Arrest.
While missing a game may be inconvenient, it would be a tragedy to lose a young athlete because warning signs were
unrecognized or because sports communities were not prepared to respond to a cardiac emergency.
I learned about warning signs and talked with my parent or coach about what to do if I have any symptoms. I have read this fact sheet on sudden cardiac arrest prevention with my youth and talked about what to do if they experience any warning signs, and what to do should we witness a cardiac arrest.