Symptoms Of Sudden Cardiac Arrest In Athletes And Active People

One of the fantastic benefits of the internet is just how much information we now have at the tip of our fingers.

For us here at Martek, this gives us access to the success stories, as well as up to date information to ensure we continually develop our products to provide the very best in life-saving equipment.


As with anything, the more informed you are beforehand, the better equipped you are but in addition to our ongoing commitment to enhance our products, being aware of the signals of Sudden Cardiac Arrest could be doubly life-saving.


One such source backing this up was this review published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. It revealed that where athletes had died suddenly of cardiac arrest during their activity, 29% of them had experienced red-flag symptoms beforehand.


Where Sudden Cardiac Arrest is concerned, the first few minutes are absolutely crucial, so knowing what is happening and acting on it with a defibrillator and medical intervention has a high success rate. SCA in young people is still relatively rare, but it can’t be ignored that it’s still unnecessarily taking lives because medical assistance isn’t being delivered in time.


The results of this system put in place in Japan, showed that having automated external defibrillators (AEDs) very strategically placed near marathon runners during races, saved 28 out of 30 lives. That is an astounding figure proving that early detection of the sudden cardiac arrest happening and acting quickly with a defib WILL save a majority of lives.


During the races, pairs of paramedics on bicycles and paired paramedics on foot had AED’s and medical emergency first aid kits as well as GPS-enabled phones to ensure speedy deployment when needed. The article states that in terms of speed of intervention “The median interval between witnessed collapse and the initiation of basic CPR was 0.8 minutes and time to first AED shock was 2.2 minutes” so you can see how the systemised approach really maximised the importance of those crucial first minutes.


The results also show a virtually full recovery saying that “All these runners had return of spontaneous circulation in the field, and all had a favorable neurologic outcome (Cerebral Performance Category of 1 or 2, on a scale from 1 [good cerebral performance] to 5 [death or brain death]) at 1 month and 1 year”.


This really hits home the importance of acting quickly, so the more aware you are of those red-flags of a Sudden Cardiac Arrest, the higher the survival and recovery rates. According to the American Heart Association, roughly 90% of people who experience sudden cardiac arrest outside of a hospital die.


So in order to know if you or someone else are experiencing SCA, here are some warning signs to be on the lookout for:

  • Unexpected shortness of breath during exercise
  • Chest tightness
  • Pressure, pain, or discomfort especially if it occurs during exercise or effort
  • Loss of consciousness, particularly during exercise
  • Severe and unexpected heart palpitations, or an unpleasant sensation of rapid heart beating when you do not expect it to be beating rapidly or so fast
  • Severe or sudden onset temporary dizziness, lightheadedness, or near fainting

Experiencing any of these symptoms, particularly during exercise, should trigger a call to your doctor. To determine their next course of action such as electrocardiography or any exercise limitations, they will ask you questions such as:

  • Have you ever felt severely dizzy or faint?
  • Do you ever find yourself unexpectedly short of breath?
  • Have you ever had chest pain during or immediately after exercise?
  • Do you have any first-degree relatives who died suddenly or had severe cardiac disease under age 60?

If you lead an active lifestyle, don’t assume it won’t happen to you. Take some time to familiarise yourself with the warning signs as well as researching where the defibs are around you. Is there one at your gym? Are they at the events you attend? Are there any in your community?

Due to the results of research, more and more event organisers are understanding the importance of having defibrillators in place. Getting into the habit of asking one or two questions when booking or attending your activities won’t take any time at all, but could save yours or someone else’s life if needed.

Ironically, after conducting his study into Cardiac Arrest, Paul Dorian, M.D., director of the division of cardiology at the University of Toronto, stated “It is also more likely that athletes will experience sudden cardiac arrest at rest and not during exercise” so you can understand why that figure of 90% of cardiac deaths occurring outside of hospitals exists. Not many people have a defibrillator in their home do they?

If you feel that you may have a heightened risk of Sudden Cardiac Arrest, speak to your doctor and familiarise yourself on where the nearest defibrillator is located near your home. Some communities have them in place and the British Heart Foundation is also collating a database of registered defibrillators too so take a look at this.


If you fancy a bit of ‘light’ reading, this 19 page PDF produced by the journal of the American College of Cardiology, summarises new concepts being suggested to try to reduce cardiac deaths as a whole. These excerpts align perfectly with our mission to inform and equip people for when they need it:


“Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is one of the largest causes of mortality globally, with an out-of-hospital survival below 10% despite intense research… Response could be improved by technology-assisted orchestration of community responder systems, access to automated external defibrillators, and innovations to match resuscitation resources to victims in place and time.”


“Prevention of SCA must integrate these concepts, recognizing that all members of society are stakeholders. Ultimately, solutions to the public health challenge of SCA will require greater awareness, societal debate and focused public policy”


All members of society are stakeholders. If all members of the public realised that we’re all part of the solution, it would make a substantial dent in that 90% death rate.


We actively encourage everyone to at the very least familiarise yourself with the symptoms of a cardiac arrest and the defibrillator locations around you. The Japanese race support figures show that the combination of these two factors is a powerful combo in reducing unnecessary deaths.


For more information on Martek Lifecare’s range of defibrillators, and how we can help you and your community protect against Sudden Cardiac Arrests too, get in touch.



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