Playing a sport in high school is a rite of passage for many, but it’s not right for everyone. For some, there are medical risks to consider.
Student-athletes who suffer from certain heart abnormalities are in danger of going into sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). A discrepancy in the electrical function of the heart, the condition causes it to suddenly and unexpectedly stop beating.
SCA has caught the attention of the California Interscholastic Federation, which governs the state’s high school sports. The CIF recently partnered with the Eric Paredes Save A Life Foundation, adding a Sudden Cardiac Arrest Protocol bylaw to the CIF Constitution. The CIF commissioners unanimously passed the bylaw in January. It is scheduled to take effect for the 2015-2016 school year.
The goal of the bylaw, according to the federation and foundation, is to protect students and raise awareness of SCA.
“It will start a dialogue between athletes and parents, which is important because it (SCA) is literally a heartbeat away,” said Maureen Legg, executive director of the Eric Paredes Save A Life Foundation.
The foundation is named for the sophomore at Steele Canyon High (San Diego County) who died of SCA in 2009. Established by his parents, Hector and Rhina Paredes, the growing foundation aims to educate the public about SCA and provides free heart-screening tests to as many people as it can. So far, the screenings have been limited to California, according to Legg, because it’s a volunteer-based organization.
Legg would like to see the foundation expand so that more people can learn about SCA, which differs from a heart attack but can be just as deadly.
“SCA is the No. 1 cause of death a year and the No. 2 cause of death of (people) under 25,” she said.
The American Heart Association concurs that SCA is the leading cause of death in the United States. In a recent report, association officials stated that approximately 326,200 people – including more than 6,000 children – experience SCA outside hospitals each year and only one in 10 victims survives.
Many people prone to SCA – including student-athletes and their families – are not aware of it because heart screenings are not part of the required checkup for those participating in high school sports, according to Legg.
She added that the symptoms of SCA may be mistaken for those of dehydration or fatigue, which can lead to serious consequences.
Legg noted that the top sign of SCA is fainting, which is often associated with the California heat.
Under the CIF’s new bylaw, coaches must attend an SCA prevention and training each time they renew their CPR credentials, according to Legg.
Not all athletic directors are aware of the new standard, however. Kim Cave, athletic director at Los Altos High, did not know the details of the new protocol before the Town Crier informed her last month.
“I’m sure there is awareness (at Los Altos High),” she said. “The bylaw is probably in the packet for next year.”
The bylaw is split into three parts. They are described, in order, below.
• A student participating in athletics who shows a symptom of SCA, such as fainting, must immediately be pulled out of play by the coach.
• The symptomatic athlete is not allowed to participate in the sport until a doctor evaluates him or her and administers an EKG scan, which checks the beating of the heart.
• An information sheet, similar to the concussion form required by the CIF, must be signed by the athlete and one parent acknowledging SCA. Only then will the athlete be permitted to play or practice with the team.
For more information on SCA, visit cifstate.org/sports-medicine/sca/index or epsavealife.org.