Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is a condition in which the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating. If this happens, blood stops flowing to the brain and other vital organs. SCA usually causes death if it's not treated within minutes.

SCA is not the same as a heart attack. A heart attack is caused by a blockage that restricts blood flow to part of the heart muscle. During a heart attack, the heart usually doesn't suddenly stop beating.

People who have heart disease are at higher risk for SCA. However, SCA often happens in people who appear healthy and have no known heart disease or other risk factors for SCA. Many people think that SCA is just an adult thing, but in fact SCA is the #1 killer of student athletes. The good news is that the majority of conditions that cause SCA are detectable and treatable.


Fainting or Seizures 

Fainting is the #1 warning sign of SCA and usually occurs immediately after physical activity or as a result of emotional excitement/ distress/ surprise. Sometimes, it may look like a seizure. Don’t assume it is from exhaustion or dehydration.

Chest Pains 

If you or your child experience chest pains, that’s a warning sign!

Unusually Rapid Heart Rate 

If your heart is racing or it feels like it is going to jump out of your chest, your body is telling you something may be wrong.

Unexplained Family Death

If a family member (under 50 years old) dies/died suddenly, and the cause of death is unknown,it may have been due to an unidentified heart condition.

Unexplained Shortness of Breath 

It’s natural to lose your breath during exercise. However, if you are experiencing shortness of breath during normal activity or your breathloss is severe during or after exercise, you should have it checked by a physician.

Extreme Fatigue 

Of course you’ll get tired when you are playing sports, but if you are more sluggish than everyone else or you feel like you don’t have any energy, check it out.


Sometimes being dizzy means that you got up too fast. It could also mean that there is something wrong with your heart. If you are getting dizzy often, check it out.


Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM) 

A condition in which the heart muscle becomes thick. Often, only one part of the heart is thicker than the other parts. The thickening can make it harder for blood to leave the heart, forcing the heart to work harder to pump blood. It also can make it harder forthe heart to relax and fill with blood.

Left Ventricular Non-Compaction 

A heart muscle condition in which the muscular wall of the main pumping chamber of the heart (the left ventricle) appears to be spongy and “non-compacted.”

Anomalous Coronary Artery 

This artery delivers blood to the heart. When it is malformed or abnormal, the flow of oxygen to the heart is compromised.

Marfan Syndrome 

A genetic disorder that affects the body’s connective tissue which can causean aortic enlargement.


Wolff-Parkinson White Syndrome (WPW) 

An extra electrical pathway into the heart creates a very fast heartbeat.

Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Dysplasia 

A disorder in which normal myocardium is replaced by fibrofatty tissue. This disorder usually involves the right ventricle, but the left ventricle and septum also maybe affected.

Complete Heart Block

Occurs when the electrical signal can’t pass normally from the atria, the heart’s upper chambers, to the ventricles, or lower chambers.

Long QT Syndrome (LQTS) 

A heart rhythm disorder that can potentially cause fast, chaotic heartbeats. These rapid heartbeats may trigger a sudden fainting spell or seizure. In some cases, your heart may beat erratically for so long that it can cause sudden death.

Brugada Syndrome 

A potentially life-threatening heart rhythm disorder. It’s characterized by a specific abnormal heartbeat called a Brugada sign, which is detected by an electrocardiogram test. Brugada syndrome is frequently an inherited condition.


Your child was tested for several rare genetic disorders at birth.  Your child had an eye and hearing exam in elementary school – it’s mandatory. The heart is arguably the most important organ in your child’s body.
Should this get checked too?

Getting your child’s heart screened, coupled with a complete family medical history, is the best wayto prevent sudden cardiac arrest and death. A heart screening, which begins with an electrocardiogram (ECG), takes about 2 minutes and records the heart’s electrical rhythm. Click here to learn more about scheduling a screening!