Sudden death of student athletes taking a front seat right now for local coaches

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Blackman youth league game (Murfreesboro team)

Tennessee parents and coaches will be learning more about sudden cardiac arrest, the leading cause of death among student athletes. The Tennessee General Assembly passed a new law in April 2015 requiring coaches and parents of athletes 18 years and younger to be informed about the signs and symptoms of sudden cardiac arrest. While this new law takes effect Jan. 1, 2016, the Tennessee Department of Health has training materials available now online.

Sudden cardiac arrest, or 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.

The Department of Health encourages the placement of automated external defibrillators, or AEDs in public spaces such as sports facilities and schools. AEDs can be used immediately to save the lives of people who are having SCA.

"About 2,000 people under the age of 25 die each year from sudden cardiac arrest," said TDH Family Health and Wellness Deputy Medical Director Morgan McDonald, MD. "Signs and symptoms of sudden cardiac arrest include fainting or seizure during exercise, unexplained shortness of breath, fatigue, dizziness, chest pains or a racing heart. Some of these symptoms may be confused with exhaustion from physical activity."

Tennessee is one of several states to pass a sudden cardiac arrest law. This new law requires parents to sign an information sheet before a child can participate in school or community league sports. Coaches will also be required to complete a sudden cardiac arrest education course each year. A link to the training course is available on the Tennessee Department of Health website at There is no charge to complete the training course.

Under the new law youth athletes removed from play for symptoms suggestive of sudden cardiac arrest will not be allowed to return to practice or play until they have been evaluated by a Tennessee licensed medical provider and received written clearance to return to sporting activities.

To learn more about preventing sudden cardiac arrest, the National Institutes of Health offers tips at Parent Heart Watch offers education, resources and stories of survivors of youth SCA at


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