Sudden Cardiac Facts

  Sudden Cardiac Arrest Statistics   Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is the leading cause of death in the U.S., taking the lives of 600,000 annually, according to the Institute of Medicine. The American Heart Association quotes more than 350,000 out-of-hospital and 209,000 in-hospital cardiac arrests (2016).   

But what most parents don’t know is that SCA is:

(1)  the #1 killer of student athletes (1) · and contributes to the #2 medical cause of death among youth under 25

 (2)   The American Heart Association reports that up to 9,500 youth are affected annually. This equates to one youth, every hour, every day we lose each year.   One student athlete dies every three days. 

(3) SCA is the leading cause of death on school campuses. 

(4)  1 in 300 youth have an undetected heart condition that puts them at risk for sudden cardiac arrest.  

SCA is not a heart attack – it’s an electrical or structural problem that causes a fatal arrhythmia – a deadly heartbeat. The underlying condition is something you’re born with (often inherited) and/or can develop as young hearts grow. 

The first symptom of SCA is often death, either because the warning signs of an underlying heart condition were not recognized or help was not administered within minutes of the event.   In fact, about 91% of SCA victims die because there was a delay in emergency response.

 Every minute’s delay decreases the chance of survival by 10%.  

Yet, of the leading causes of youth deaths sudden cardiac arrest is arguably the only one that can be prevented.     · 

(5)  The National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research stated that more athletes die from a cardiac arrest than from incurring injuries while playing sports.   

An American Board of Family Medicine study noted that 72% of students who suffered from SCA were reported by their parents to have at least one symptom before the event—they just didn't recognize it as life threatening. 

(6) The standard approach to youth checkups is a non-cardio focused physical exam/history that misses 96% of youth at risk for SCA. 


(7)  With respect to criticism that EKG screening is cost-prohibitive, a U.S. based study by Stanford University of Medicine projected the cost of screening in this country at about $88 per student athlete and calculated two lives would be saved per 1,000 teens screened, concluding that screening is worth it. 

(8)   ECGs are the most effective tool to identify youth and student athletes at risk for sudden cardiac arrest with the lowest false positive rate. 

Normal physicals identify 7% of heart issues. Family history identifies 20%. EKG's identify 80%.

The Institute of Medicine /National Academy of Sciences that cites that each year less than 3% of the US population receives CPR training, leaving bystanders unprepared to respond to a cardiac arrest. According to the National EMS Information System, it takes an average of 8-12 minutes for first responders to arrive. 

But every minute delayed in treating an SCA victim decreases survival by 10%.  

A University of Washington study found that when CPR and an AED are used immediately, the survival rate jumps to 64%—so training is literally a life-saving initiative.   

(9)  Sudden cardiac arrest is one of medicine’s most catastrophic and little-understood events.