There are many reasons why young high school athletes are dying from sudden cardiac arrest.

Sudden cardiac arrest poses a real risk to young athletes. Credit: Wikipedia Commons.

The medical examiner from Ottawa County, MI tells the Los Angeles Times that on March 4, 2011, Fennville High School lost their star basketball player, 16-year-old Wes Leonard to sudden cardiac arrest.  The New York Daily News said that three days later Poudre High School in Fort Collins, CO lost their team captain, Mathew Hammerdorfer, to sudden cardiac arrest. According to American Heart Association 295,000 deaths occur out of the hospital from sudden cardiac arrest per year.

Both of these student athletes had weak hearts that couldn’t pump blood through the body efficiently. This condition is called dilated cardiomyopathy, which led them to suffer sudden cardiac arrest.

According to, dilated cardiomyopathy is a condition in which the heart’s ability to pump blood declines because the heart’s main pumps chamber is enlarged and weakened. Mayo Clinic said dilated cardiomyopathy leads to things like fatigue and shortness of breath when you are active or lying down. Other signs of dilated cardiomyopathy are swelling of the abdomen, lack of appetite and pale skin. It’s like a chain letter dilated cardiomyopathy leads to sudden cardiac arrest.

The Gainesville Sun (Florida) shares that not too many days after the Leonard incident; Eastside High School lost a soccer player and track star, 17-year-old Sarah Laudauer. Laudauer collapsed on Friday, and then died on Wednesday from sudden cardiac arrest.  According to MSNBC .com, another star athlete Reggie Garret from Texas died from cardiac arrest. After throwing the winning touchdown Reggie collapsed and was pronounced dead.

During the summer we often hear football players dying from cardiac arrest because of heat, but do we really know exactly what cardiac arrest is? Cardiac arrest occurs because the heart is beating too fast, too slow, or at an abnormal rhythm, reports Leonard and Hammerdorder died because their heart couldn’t pump blood through the body and it led to cardiac arrest. On the other hand, Laudauer and Garret died from being too hot and being dehydrated.

According to Hazelwood East High School biology teacher Mary Jo Ruther, when a person is dehydrated he or she can’t retain electrolytes, things like potassium and sodium. If the heart doesn’t have this, the heart muscle can’t contract properly. A person can stay hydrated by increasing fluids with increasing physical activity, Ruther said.

Age has nothing to do with cardiac arrest. MayoClinic .com said if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, drink alcohol two times a day, or smoke every day, and then you are at risk of suffering from cardiac arrest.

The information given by tells us sometimes cardiac arrest has no symptoms, but when they occur they are usually no pulse, fainting, blackouts, no breathing and chest pains. These are the main symptoms of cardiac arrest.

There for athletes need to keep themselves hydrated and make sure they are getting regular check-ups to the doctor. These steps can help us do our part in the prevention of cardiac arrest. Ruther says a doctor can spot dilated cardiomypathy in a checkup. They tap over the heart and can tell if it’s enlarged, they can also do stress test and chest x-rays and a CAT scan of the heart.

Related story: Surviving a Sudden Cardiac Arrest

 According to Hazelwood East High School varsity volleyball and JV basketball coach Whitney Carson, “the signs of a healthy person are if they have nice posture and if they look well rested.” Adds Carson, “I prevent SCA by not over exhausting my athletes, checking their hear rates, and giving them water and Gatorade even when they are not thirsty.” Rebeka Washington


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  1. I think that is is a really good artical because im a very young high schooler and i play sprots. I play volleyball and i think if more people read this they will be interesting to play sprots