in young athletes
Senate Bill 229, An Act Concerning Sudden Cardiac Arrest Prevention, will provide for the creation of a SCA awareness education program. This program will be taught to all state coaches, and will detail the warning signs and symptoms associated with SCA, the risks associated with allowing a young person to continue engaging in athletics after exhibiting these warning signs, and the means of obtaining proper medical treatment for someone experiencing SCA. Additionally, coaches will be taught the proper method for determining whether a student who has experienced SCA can safely return to play.
Following the development of this education program, parents of all student athletes will be provided with an informed consent form, detailing the risks associated with SCA and the local or regional board of education’s policies on handling SCA. Coaches will review the SCA educational materials each year, and could be penalized for willfully ignoring them and endangering the athletes under their supervision.
Sudden cardiac arrest is the leading cause of death in young athletes, with the incidence of deaths in the range of one in every 200,000 high school aged athletes each year. SCA is a condition in which the heart unexpectedly ceases to function. When this occurs, blood stops flowing to the brain and other vital organs, causing loss of consciousness or seizure-like activity. SCA is frequently the outcome of an underlying heart condition, but can also occur due to impact to the chest, heat stroke, asthma, allergic reaction, or medication.
The most effective treatment for SCA is quick CPR and defibrillation. Survival chances drop by about 7 percent to 10 percent for every minute of delay. Few attempts at resuscitation are successful after 10 minutes.
Connecticut’s legislation was inspired in part by the tragic story of Andy Peña, a Darien student athlete who died of sudden cardiac arrest in 2011, just one month away from turning 15.
Andy was a disciplined student and athlete. He won recognition for placement among the top 16 Connecticut swimmers in his age group in a backstroke event. As a high school freshman he joined the track and field team and competed avidly during the cross-country fall and winter indoor track seasons. Andy passed away while training on a treadmill for the spring track season.
His father, Victor Peña, testified in favor of the legislation at a public hearing in February. He said, “Sudden cardiac arrest doesn’t only happen to adults, it happens to our children. The more that athletes, parents, and coaches know about sudden cardiac arrest, the better prepared they will be if and when it happens. If we can spread this information, I hope we can prevent other families from having to experience what happened to ours.”
Andy’s parents, Victor and Giovanna, founded the Andy Smiles Forever Foundation in his memory, to educate the general public and support research on the causes and prevention of sudden cardiac death amongst youth.