An estimated 2,000 people under 25 die in the U.S. each year from sudden cardiac arrest. On Wednesday, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett is scheduled to sign a first-of-its kind law aimed at preventing those deaths in student athletes.
The new law requires student athletes who show warning signs of sudden cardiac arrest to be removed from play until they are cleared by a doctor or nurse practitioner. It also requires coaches to receive sudden cardiac arrest training each year. The law applies to public school coaches and children of all ages in interscholastic sports.
The idea for the legislation arrived in Harrisburg last April with Plymouth Meeting father Darren Sudman. Grieving from the death of his own son, he introduced a dozen lawmakers to a student from their area who had died from sudden cardiac arrest.
“I was able to show them a news article about a student from their district who had passed,” Sudman said. “And sometimes it was news to them. That just told me how much we had to raise awareness about sudden cardiac arrest and death.”
Sudman’s son died as an infant, but his family foundation focused legislative efforts on student athletes in order to reach a more at-risk population.
“If a kid is exhausted, their heart’s racing or they pass out during sports, we automatically tell them to sit down, rest for a few minutes, and have a sip of Gatorade and then send them back in,” Sudman said. “We don’t realize the consequences of those actions.”
Martha Lopez-Anderson, head of the national advocacy group Parent Heart Watch, said she hopes other states will adopt the legislation.
“What the state of Pennsylvania is doing is an incredible step forward,” Lopez-Anderson said. “I think it will serve certainly as an example for other states to follow.”
The law is scheduled to take effect in 60 days.