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Sudden cardiac arrest no. 1 killer of student athletes

By | Posted - Dec 5th, 2012 @ 7:47pm

SALT LAKE CITY — After a Utah State University basketball player collapsed Tuesday and went into cardiac arrest, sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) — a condition that affects teens and babies — is in the spotlight.

To be clear, doctors don't yet know what caused Danny Berger to collapse during practice Tuesday afternoon. But with the strong connection SCA has to college athletics, it's not outside the realm of possibilities.

SCA results from an electrical disturbance in the heart, an arrhythmia, interrupting pumping, which stops blood flow. It is different from a heart attack, which is the result of blood flow to the heart being blocked. The condition is the number one killer of student athletes and is responsible for up to 15 percent of sudden infant deaths.

The condition is detectable through electrocardiographic screening.

A study, published in November's Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that screening student athletes could reduce the number of deaths from SCA by 89 percent, saving 4,813 lives. They also found that screening all young competitive athletes in the U.S. would cost up to $69 billion over 20 years.

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