Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) occurs when the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating, cutting off blood flow to the brain and other vital organs. SCA can occur in any physically active individual at any age, including but not limited to young athletes. In the United States, 2,000 children and adolescents die as a result of SCA each year, representing 3 to 5 percent of deaths in children ages 5-19.
In March of 2017, the Ohio Senate passed Bill 252, better known as Lindsay’s Law, to combat these statistics through education and screening protocols.
What is Lindsay’s Law?
Lindsay’s Law aims to reduce the occurrence of SCA in organized sports and activities by requiring education, and in certain cases screening, regarding signs, symptoms and risk factors of SCA. Participants, coaches, and parents are all required to review educational materials to better understand SCA and appropriate emergency responses.
Lindsay’s Law applies to any youth sports organization, as well as athletics at public and private schools.
If you and/or your child participate in organized activities, you will be required to review education materials to better understand sudden cardiac arrest, recognize symptoms and learn how to respond. You may also learn about requirements for clearance for participation if certain signs, symptoms or risk factors are observed. These include:
- Chest pain or discomfort with exercise/activity
- Fainting or passing out when related to exercise/activity
- Excessive or unexplained shortness of breath, excessive fatigue or palpitations associated with exercise, including a racing heart
- Prior history of a heart murmur, prior heart evaluation or prior restrictions from competitive sports due to a heart condition
- High blood pressure
- Family history identifying one or more relatives with early death that was sudden before age 50 because of heart disease, or unexpected and unexplained (drowning, single car accident, etc).
- Family history of certain heart conditions including hypertrophic or dilated cardiomyopathy, Long QT Syndrome, Brugada syndrome, Marfan’s syndrome or significant rhythm problems.
Know the Signs and Symptoms of heart disease that causes SCA
It’s important that active children and adolescents and those supervising them know when a SCA may be taking place and how to report symptoms suspicious for heart disease that can cause a SCA. Signs and symptoms commonly occur prior to a sudden cardiac arrest, so being aware and proactive is a key step in preventing SCA. The following signs and symptoms are suspicious for heart disease that can cause SCA:
- Chest pain or discomfort during activity/exercise
- Fainting during or after activity/exercise
- Unexplained fatigue with activity/exercise
- Excessive shortness of breath with activity/exercise
- Palpitations or a racing heart with activity/exercise
Work With Your School or Program to Get Educated and Make a Plan
Your school or program will receive information and protocols on Lindsay’s Law. You can work with this organization to make sure that there is a plan in place if there is a sudden cardiac arrest event.
Nationwide Children’s cardiologists lead Project ADAM (Automated Defibrillators in Adam’s Memory) Ohio, a program designed to support schools and organizations in creating safe and reliable protocols to react to a sudden cardiac arrest event. Across the nation, Project ADAM helps schools implement programs to make automated external defibrillators (AEDs) readily available. More information about how your school can become a Heart Safe School can be found at NationwideChildrens.org/Project-Adam.
While it is not possible to prevent every sudden cardiac arrest, we can help prevent sudden cardiac death by developing adequate emergency action plans. SCA is fatal if not treated immediately. The presence of an AED is essential for the survival of someone experiencing SCA. The use of an AED within 5 minutes after an SCA is more effective at saving not only a life, but the quality of life and brain function as well.
Cardiologists at Nationwide Children’s recommend the following emergency action plan:
- Call 9-1-1, report symptoms to the dispatcher (send someone to get the AED while you call if possible)
- Immediately begin CPR
- Retrieve AED and follow AED prompts as soon as possible.
- Use AED as soon as possible, ideally within 3-5 minutes to have the best success in restoring proper heart rhythm.