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Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) happens from an “abrupt and unexpected loss of heart function leading to loss of consciousness and collapse.” SCA is rare in young people, but it can happen. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 2,800 young, seemingly healthy people under age 25 in the United States die each year of sudden cardiac arrest and affects 7,000 young people annually. Sports-related SCA accounted for 39% among those <18 years of age, 13% ages 19-25, and 7% for those 25-34.

There are not really warning signs but there are causes:

  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Usually inherited and often undiagnosed
  • Coronary artery abnormalities.  Young people with coronary artery abnormalities usually are born with them but may not notice any symptoms until they are older.
  • Primary arrhythmias. In people with structurally normal hearts, sudden cardiac arrest can sometimes be caused by undiagnosed genetic conditions that affect the heart’s electrical impulses. For example, these include:
  • Arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia (ARVD). With this inherited condition, some of the heart’s muscle tissue gets replaced with scar tissue.
  • Myocarditis. Occurs when the heart muscle (myocardium) becomes inflamed. Inflammation occurs when your body’s immune system responds to infections, for example. Myocarditis can be caused by viral infections or more systemic inflammatory conditions such as autoimmune disorders.
  • Marfan syndrome. This connective tissue disease can lead to tears in the heart’s aortic blood vessel. 
  • Commotio Cordis is caused by a blow to the chest directly over the heart at certain points in the heartbeat cycle. 
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