Sports and Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA)

Signs and Symptoms


More than half the time, sudden cardiac arrest in athletes happens without warning.  In these cases, the heart stops beating and the person collapses.

You can tell when someone is in SCA because the individual stops breathing, and no pulse is felt in the neck or wrist (no heartbeat).  This is a medical emergency that requires action at once. Call 911 right away and start CPR right away.

When there are warning signs, the person can experience:

  • sudden irregular heartbeat 
  • lightheadedness or dizziness 
  • chest pain
  • shortness of breath  
  • prior episodes of passing out 

If you have these symptoms, either with or without exercise, or if you have a family member who suffered an SCA, talk to your health care professional before continuing to exercise or play sports.

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Published: March 2018
Editorial Team Lead: Jordan Prutkin, MD, FACC
Medical Contributors: Antonio B. Fernandez, MD, FACC; Adam M. Noyes, MD; Nishant R. Shah, MD, FACC; Isik Turker, MD

Infographic: Sudden Cardiac Arrest

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