Objective: To assist high school and college athletic programs prepare for and respond to sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). This consensus statement summarizes our current understanding of SCA in young athletes, defines the necessary elements for emergency preparedness, and establishes uniform treatment protocols for the management of SCA.
Background: SCA is the leading cause of death in young athletes. The increasing presence of and timely access to automated external defibrillators (AEDs) at sporting events provides a means of early defibrillation and the potential for effective secondary prevention of sudden cardiac death. An Inter-Association Task Force was sponsored by the National Athletic Trainers' Association to develop consensus recommendations on emergency preparedness and management of SCA in athletes.
Recommendations: Comprehensive emergency planning is needed for high school and college athletic programs to ensure an efficient and structured response to SCA. Essential elements of an emergency action plan include establishing an effective communication system, training of anticipated responders in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and AED use, access to an AED for early defibrillation, acquisition of necessary emergency equipment, coordination and integration of onsite responder and AED programs with the local emergency medical services system, and practice and review of the response plan. Prompt recognition of SCA, early activation of the emergency medical services system, the presence of a trained rescuer to initiate cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and access to early defibrillation are critical in the management of SCA. In any collapsed and unresponsive athlete, SCA should be suspected and an AED applied as soon as possible for rhythm analysis and defibrillation if indicated.