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Pa. Governor Signs Sudden Cardiac Arrest Law for Youth Athletes

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett signed a law last week designed to protect student-athletes from heart failure, a measure that closely mirrors the state's youth-concussion law passed in November of last year.

The "Sudden Cardiac Arrest Prevention Act," which goes into effect before the start of the 2012-13 school year, requires schools to issue an information sheet to parents of student-athletes about warning signs and symptoms of sudden cardiac arrest. Parents must sign and return the form to the school before their children can participate in athletics.

Like the concussion law, the newly approved measure requires that any student-athlete who exhibits symptoms of sudden cardiac arrest during an athletic activity be removed from play immediately. Furthermore, a student-athlete must be held out of all athletic activities if he or she exhibits any signs of cardiac arrest before or after an event.

Before returning to the playing field, student-athletes with symptoms of cardiac arrest must receive medical clearance from a licensed physician, certified registered nurse practitioner, or cardiologist, according to the new law.

"Being sidelined for a game is better than being lost forever," said Corbett at last week's signing ceremony, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. "This is a law of prevention, born out of a painful loss and a spirit of generosity from those families who have seen bearing their own sorrow and found hope for others."

Under the new law, coaches must complete an annual training course about sudden cardiac arrest, and cannot coach an athletic activity until they complete the training. The law suggests that non-school athletics organizations also comply with the new rules, but doesn't require them to do so.

One group likely to support Pennsylvania's new law? The National Athletic Trainers' Association, which highlighted sudden cardiac arrest as an area that required more attention in youth sports back in March of last year. The organization included a section on sudden cardiac arrest in a position statement released in December 2011, recommending that schools keep defibrillators on hand to apply as soon as possible after a student-athlete collapses.

A survey released during last year's American Heart Association's scientific sessions found that fewer than 6 percent of doctors in Washington state followed national sudden cardiac-death screening guidelines to their fullest extent when examining high school athletes.

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