by Sammy Bonasso ’20
This past July, UAHS Athletic Director Tony Pusateri sent an email to all student athletes and their parents containing a video detailing sudden cardiac arrest. The video offered information on what it was and who is most at risk for it and included stories of student athletes who have previously experienced sudden cardiac arrest.
The video explained sudden cardiac arrest as “when the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating, cutting off all blood flow to the brain and other vital organs.” Causes include structural and electrical heart disease and “situational” factors, specifically an impact to the chest or a heart infection.
The video lists “chest pain or discomfort with exercise,” “unexplained fainting or near fainting,” “unexplained tiredness or shortness of breath” and “unusually fast heartbeats associated with exercise” as warning signs of an imminent SCA. Furthermore, athletes who have relatives with cardiomyopathy, long QT syndrome, Marfan syndrome, or other rhythmic heart issues may be more susceptible to SCA than those without such medical conditions.
Pusateri sent the video in compliance with Ohio’s Lindsay’s Law (Senate Bill 252) which went into effect in 2017. The bill was named after national heart health advocate and former Miss Ohio Lindsay Davis who suffers from a heart condition.
“Sudden cardiac arrest is the number one killer of student athletes,” Davis said. “At any moment I could have died because coaches and teachers had no idea this was even a possibility for someone who looked as healthy as I did at that age.”
The law compels athletes and their parents to review sudden cardiac arrest information before these athletes are allowed to participate in sports, and the school ensured that athletes and parents did this by including a check box at the end of the required video.
This mechanism circumvents the signature form that the law would otherwise require athletes and their parents to sign prior to the athletes playing sports stating that they reviewed “the information developed by the departments of health and education.”
Although the law primarily utilizes awareness to combat sudden cardiac arrests, it also enforces more practical and concrete regulations. For example, before a student who has fainted preceding, following, or during an athletic activity can return to training, he or she must be medically cleared by a healthcare professional. Also, if the student has any close relative who has had an SCA, he or she must be cleared by a medical professional before being allowed to participate in sports.
Lindsay’s Law also impacts coaches, who must, according to the Ohio Department of Health’s website, annually complete an SCA training course and achieve 80% percent proficiency on a post-assessment.
Davis, the heart health advocate behind the law, believes that more education and awareness will better equip students, parents and coaches to handle SCAs.
“We’re losing thousands of kids every year from [SCAs] because a lack of education,” Davis said. “If [Lindsay’s law] just saves one life it’s worth it.”