Avera Medical Minute: Athletes and cardiac emergencies

Published: Jul. 1, 2021 at 2:20 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) -Sudden cardiac arrest is one of the leading causes of death among young athletes.

In early June, soccer player Christian Eriksen collapsed during the Euro 2020 Denmark versus Finland game. On the field, he received urgent medical care and is now recovering.

His story highlights how important it is to respond to a cardiac emergency right away as every second is crucial.

“When someone experiences sudden cardiac arrest, I mean the clock is ticking. They say time is muscle,” said Dr. Jonathon Adams, Electrophysiologist with the Avera Heart Hospital

He says that’s because the heart starts beating faster, affecting blood flow or oxygen delivery.

In Eriksen’s case:

“You have to give, you know, credit to their teammates and their medical staff that they, first of all, recognized what was going on, that he didn’t have a pulse, started CPR right away to get the blood pumping to his organs, identified where the defibrillator was, placed it on his chest and shocked him back to normal rhythm right away. And so he survived,” said Dr. Adams.

He urges everyone to take note of these actions.

“The quicker you can get to CPR to start circulating blood and oxygen, the better and the quicker you can get a defibrillator to restore normal rhythm the better. The higher your chances of survival,” said Dr. Adams.

An automated external defibrillator or AED is a device anyone can easily use. Once on, the device verbally walks the user through the steps of what to do. It can recognize a rapid or irregular heart rhythm that requires a shock.

“First of all it’s important that public places have these and it’s important that people are aware of where they are located,” said Dr. Adams.

Those typically at risk of cardiac arrest include people with a history of congenital heart disease or defect.

“In some cases, people could have had a viral infection in the past and their heart function may be weaker or they may have scarring in their heart that can place them at risk of cardiac arrest,” said Dr. Adams.

However, Dr. Adams says everyone should be taking precautions like getting screened.

“In the United States, so it’s recommended people that are playing competitive sports have a physical with their doctor or their provider every two years and then at least have an interview with them, you know, every year at check-up because things can change over time as kids grow up,” said Dr. Adams.

It’s especially important for anyone older who is taking up a new workout regimen.

“It’s recommended if you’re over the age of 35 and you are going to start doing a new exercise program, especially something like distance running or something where it is fairly strenuous, then you go see your doctor, be evaluated, especially if you’ve had any symptoms like chest pain, or shortness of breath with activity, dizziness,” said Dr. Adams.

Making sure you are prepared on both fronts to prevent and help assist in a cardiac emergency.

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