Urging public awareness before the start of the fall school sports season, Rep. Mike Vereb (R-Montgomery) today held a press conference to discuss his legislation, House Bill 1610, to educate and safeguard student athletes against sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). SCA is the leading cause of death in young athletes. In fact, according to news reports, approximately one out of every 180 students is at high risk for sudden cardiac death.
“Sudden cardiac arrest strikes quickly and unexpectedly,” Vereb said. “Parents and coaches need to be aware of the warning signs. Too often news reports contain stories of student athletes who die during a game or practice as a result of an unknown heart condition. Awareness is the first step toward prevention.”
Vereb’s legislation ensures that appropriate measures are taken when a student athlete shows symptoms of cardiac distress. Specifically, his legislation stipulates that:
A student who, as determined by a game official, coach from the student’s team, certified athletic trainer, licensed physician or other official designated by the student’s school entity, exhibits signs or symptoms of sudden cardiac arrest while participating in an athletic activity shall be removed by the coach from participation at that time.
A student who is known to have exhibited signs or symptoms at any time prior to or following an athletic activity shall be prevented from participating in any athletic activity.
The student shall not return to participation in an athletic activity until the student is evaluated and cleared for return to participation in writing by an appropriate medical professional.
In order to help determine whether a student is ready to return to play, the appropriate medical professional may consult any other licensed or certified medical professionals.
In addition, the legislation authorizes the development of guidelines and other relevant materials to inform and educate students, parents and coaches about the nature and warning signs of SCA. A student and the parent/guardian of a student wishing to participate in an athletic activity must sign an acknowledgement of receipt and review of the sudden cardiac arrest symptoms and warning signs information sheet. Athletic coaches are also required to complete a sudden cardiac arrest training course each year.
SCA occurs when the heartbeat stops abruptly and unexpectedly and is usually attributed to either a structural or electrical heart defect. Warning signs include fainting and shortness of breath. The unexplained death of a family member under the age of 50 can also be a factor.
Vereb has worked with the nonprofit organization Simon’s Fund to bring awareness to this medical condition. Darren and Phyllis Sudman started the organization after their infant son died of SCA.
“The conditions that lead to sudden cardiac arrest are detectable and the deaths are preventable,” Darren Sudman said. “By raising awareness through smart legislation like this, we will save lives, and spare families and communities from the horror of losing a child.”
“We need to make as many parents, coaches and athletic directors as possible—as well as the community—aware of the risk symptoms (fainting, chest pain and heart palpitations) and factors for sudden cardiac death in children,” said Dr. David Shipon, Simon’s Fund board member and a practicing cardiologist at Jefferson University Hospital. “They need to feel empowered to tell children to seek help. Student athletes are at greatest risk.”
“These deaths are so tragic, taking young people before their lives really get going,” Dr. Reginald Ho, Clinical Assistant Professor of Cardiology at Thomas Jefferson University said. “We have the potential to save many young lives through screening and by creating systems for organized sports to catch young people who might be prone to sudden cardiac death.”
“We applaud State Representative Mike Vereb's leadership in protecting student athletes from sudden cardiac arrest,” said Norman S. Abramson, MD, FACEP, FCCM, professor emeritus, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and chair of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation Board of Directors. “Sudden cardiac deaths do occur in young people, who are often thought to be immune from such events. Schools that sponsor student athletes should be diligent in their efforts to ensure student safety. This legislation is an important step in the right direction.”
Vereb’s legislation was unanimously passed by the House Education Committee. It is currently waiting to be taken up for consideration by the full House.