Sudden Cardiac Arrest in Youths

Sudden Cardiac Arrest in youths can be easily overlooked and takes the lives of over 2,000 children every year. Cardiac arrest occurs suddenly and often without warning. It is caused by electrical problems with the heart and leads to a dangerously increased heart rate and irregular blood flow. Disrupted blood flow prohibits the heart from pumping blood to vital organs, thus leading to unconsciousness and no pulse in the victim.

Cardiac arrest and cardiac problems are more prominent than ever:

  • 1 in 300 youths has some undetected heart condition
  • Up to 72% of youth victims had one warning sign that was not recognized
  • Up to 49% of victims have some sort of family heart history
  •  Up to 60% of tragedies were proceeded by symptoms where a cardiac screening and diagnosis was not considered

Sudden cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death in the U.S. and occurs more often than people believe. Furthermore, youth athletes are twice as likely to experience a heart condition compared to their non-athlete counterparts. Teens playing basketball and football are most susceptible to sudden cardiac arrest. In addition, many symptoms and conditions go unscreened due to the youth not wanting to lose play time in their sport. This can be a big problem as symptoms may be hidden from parents and coaches.

Facts on cardiac problems in youth:

  • Young athletes are twice as likely to experience a heart condition than non-athletes
  • The average age cardiac arrest occurs in youth is 17-18 years old
  • 90% of victims are male
  • Risk only increases over time

It is important to note that there are many ways to avoid suffering sudden cardiac arrest. First, it is a good idea to get a heart screening. Screenings will present current risk factors towards various cardiac diseases and can lead you to seek further treatment if any issues arise. Second, parents can watch their kids and set a safe space to monitor any complaints about chest pain or sudden shortness of breath, especially during activities. Education on what to do when sudden cardiac arrest occurs is important. Immediate bystander intervention has the ability to double the chances of survival for a victim. Avoiding cardiac arrests in youth is a combined team effort and many precautions can be taken to avoid increased risk.

Vlad Elizarov, Intern at Alexander’s Hope


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