Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA)

Develop plans and procedures to react quickly.

Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is the leading cause of death for youth and teen athletes during exercise.

The majority of athletes who suffer SCA on the field show no warning symptoms.

Knowing how to react is crucial when a cardiac event occurs. Ensure your program is equipped with AEDs and training to react properly when an incident occurs.


Sudden cardiac arrest is not the same as a heart attack. It is the result of structural or electrical disorders in the heart that lead to a potentially lethal arrhythmia.

Often, the first sign of a potential cardiac arrest is collapse during exercise. By having a properly trained staff and an AED (defibrillator) onsite, school and league administrators can greatly reduce tragic outcomes when SCA occurs.

footage Dr Drezner

Did you know:

Early defibrillation dramatically improves survival rates. In fact, survival rates as high as 89 percent have been achieved in student-athletes when defibrillation is provided within three minutes of collapse. *

*Source: Drezner J, Toresdahl B, Rao A, Huszti E, Harmon K. Outcomes from Sudden Cardiac Arrest in U.S. High Schools: A Two-Year Prospective Study from the National Registry for AED Use in Sports. Br J Sports Med. 2013;47(18):1179-83.

Download USA Football’s sudden cardiac arrest sheet for more information.


Signs & Symptoms

Remember, the majority of SCA cases occur with no warning signs. That is why any player who collapses and is unresponsive should be assumed to be in cardiac arrest until proven otherwise.

Here's what to look for:

A collapsed and unresponsive athlete

(especially without any recent trauma)

50 percent of athletes with SCA have brief seizure-like activity

(i.e arm and leg movements)

Warning Symptoms
  • Chest pain with exercise
  • Racing heart (when it shouldn’t)
  • Passing out with exercise
  • Shortness of breath or fatigue that is disproportionate to the level of exertion
  • A family member who died suddenly from a heart condition or suffered SCA before the age of 50


Every high school and youth football organization should develop an emergency action plan.

  1. 1. Know the location of AEDs at practice and game fields
  2. 2. Have a way to call 9-1-1 in case of an emergency during football activities; if cell availability is bad in your area, know where to reach stronger service
  3. 3. Make sure trainers and coaches are trained in CPR and AED use and are able to recognize SCA symptoms
  4. 4. Define emergency routes to practice and game facilities
  5. 5. Assign key staff to meet and direct emergency responders
  6. 6. Designate personnel to stay with the child on the way to the hospital in case a parent or guardian is not present
  7. 7. Choose a coach to organize and remove the rest of the team from the injury site
  8. 8. Have player/parent phone numbers available and a point person to contact the parents if one is not present
  9. 9. Acquire AEDs to have onsite during games and practices


Automated external defibrillators (AEDs) are portable devices that check the heart rhythm and can send an electric shock to the heart to attempt to restore a normal rhythm.

  • USA Football
  • Physio Control

USA Football and Physio-Control are dedicated to providing youth and high school programs easy access to AEDs.

USA Football members get special pricing on two LIFEPAK CR® AED packages.

Download more information on pricing here.

The percentage saved is determined by the AED package that is purchased.

  • Advanced technology
  • Simple to use
  • Fully automatic


Take this important step in making the game better and safer for your athletes by ordering your AED package today.

Download the AED order form

Request More Info

For more information on getting AEDs for your programs, contact us at

Fundamentals & fitting

Reducing helmet-to-helmet contact and ensuring equipment is properly fitted advances player health and safety.