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Protecting Children and Youth from Sudden Cardiac Arrest

General Facts about Sudden Cardiac Arrest

  • There are approximately 295,000 occurrences of out-of-hospital SCA each year in the United States – and most of them are fatal. (1)
  • About 800 people have an out-of hospital SCA each day,
  • Only an estimated 8% of victims who suffer a SCA outside of a hospital setting survive.
  • For every minute without life-saving CPR and defibrillation, chances of survival decrease by 7 to 10%. (2)
  • Although overall deaths from heart disease have declined over the past 30 years, the mortality rate from SCA has not. (3)
  • Treatment of SCA is a race against the clock. The combination of early, immediate CPR and defibrillation can more than double a victim’s chance of survival.
  • If the survival rate increased from 5% to 20%, an additional 40,000 lives could be saved annually. (5)
  • Brain death starts to occur in just 4 to 6 minutes following a SCA.
  • EMS personnel typically arrive within 8-12 minutes of call.
  • When defibrillation is delivered within five minutes of the sudden cardiac arrest, 50 percent of individuals survive

What is Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA)?

Facts about Sudden Cardiac Arrest in Youth

  • Each year, there are an estimated 1,900 to 14,200 cases of out-of-hospital SCA in children nationwide.
  • Approximately 5-15% are caused by an abnormal heart rhythm called ventricular fibrillation.
  • Student athletes who suffer SCA often have an underlying heart abnormality that is undiagnosed. (6)
  • Sports Pre-participation Physical Exams (PPE) do not normally include adequate investigation of the young athlete's family or personal cardiac history. 
  • Automatic External Defibrillators (AEDs) are normally not readily accessible. AEDs are normally brought by EMS personnel. 
  • There is no national standard for PPEs or the associated form. 
  • EKG and Echocardiograms are not part of a PPE. 
  • More than 6 million high school students participate in athletics each year. 
  • 90% of SCA occur during or after athletic activities.
  • 90% of the SCD are male.
  • The average age of collapse is 17.


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Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is the condition in which the heart unexpectedly ceases to function.  Often, this is because of irregular and rapid quivering of the heart’s lower pumping chambers (ventricles) called ventricular fibrillation. When this occurs, blood stops flowing to the brain and other vital organs, causing loss of consciousness or seizure-like activity in seconds.


If not treated within minutes, SCA results in death.  The normal rhythm of the heart can only be restored with defibrillation, an electrical shock that is safely delivered to the chest by an automated external defibrillator (AED).