• The Most Common Causes of Sports Related Death


    According to the experts, the top causes of sudden death in sport are Sudden Cardiac Arrest, Exertional Heat Stroke (EHS), head injuries, and exertional sickling.  This page further defines Sudden Cardiac Arrest, Exertional Heat Stroke (EHS), Exertional Sickling and Head injuries and emphasizes our Duval County Public Schools (DCPS) approach to maximizing safety in these areas.


    Sudden Cardiac Arrest

    What is sudden cardiac arrest?

    Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) occurs when the heart stops beating, abruptly and without warning.  If this happens, blood stops flowing to the brain and other vital organs. Most of these individuals do not have any idea that they have potential risk factors for SCA. It is important that any athletes that have potential risk factors get an EKG before participating.


    What we are doing in DCPS:

    ·       All athletes are required to have a pre-participation physical exam.

    ·       All coaches are CPR/AED certified.

    ·       All coaches must watch an approved video on SCA.

    ·       At least one AED device is available on each high school and middle school campus.

    ·       Athletic trainers create Emergency Action Plans and rehearse them with coaches to expedite care in the event of an emergency.


    Exertional Heat Stroke

    What is Exertional heat stroke?

     Exertional heat stroke is the second leading cause of sport related death. This occurs when the body’s core temperature rises above an extremely dangerous 104-degree threshold, causing organ systems to begin failing. Especially in the state of Florida, heat stroke is our number one worry for our athletes.


    What we are doing in DCPS:

    ·       Coaches are encouraged to discuss the importance of proper hydration with their athletes.

    ·       Coaches follow FHSAA guidelines for heat acclimatization.

    ·       Athletic trainers create emergency action plans and rehearse them to expedite care in the event of emergency.

    ·      Policies are in place for monitoring the heat and immediate rapid cooling in the event of heat injury.


    Exertional Sickling

    What is Exertional Sickling Collapse?

    Exertional sickling occurs in athletes carrying the sickle cell trait.  When the red blood cells (RBC) change shape or “sickle”, it causes a buildup of RBCs in small blood vessels, leading to decreased blood flow. This drop in blood flow leads to a break-down of muscle tissue and cell death, known as fulminant rhabdomyolysis

    What we are doing in DCPS:

    •   All athletes are required to have a pre-participation physical exam

    •   Athletic trainers create emergency action plans and rehearse them to expedite care in the event of emergency

    •   Coaches are given, via the athletic trainer, a list of athletes at risk to aid the athletic trainer with prevention

    Heat acclimatization and hydration protocols set in place by FHSAA and DCPS


    Head and Neck Injuries

    What are Head and Neck Injuries?

    Head injuries are included in the top deadly risks for sports. Head injuries may include but are not limited to: concussions, skull fractures, cranial nerve damage, neck fractures, and spinal cord damage. Long term head injuries/damages can be seen as second impact syndrome, CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), and personality changes.

    What we are doing in DCPS:

    • DCPS has a concussion policy (located on the Policies and Procedures Page) to decrease the chance of second impact syndrome by removing athletes from play after signs or symptoms of sustaining a head injury.
    • By catching a head injury right away, healing can begin sooner, and the outcomes are more favorable for full recovery.
    • Athletes are required to complete the AT-18 form and are referred to a physician via the Athletic Trainer to be further evaluated to rule out other injury to the brain.
      • Normal brain imaging studies themselves do not rule out a concussion or predict a safe return to physical activity. That is why the athlete starts the return to play protocol on the AT-18 form once he/she is symptom free.
    • Coaches and athletes are required to watch an educational video on NFHS Learn about concussions, to help educate them on how to identify concussion symptoms and how to immediately handle the athletes.
      • Specifically stated in the Athletic Training Policies and Procedures Manual, “Parents, Athletes, Coaches, Teachers, Administrators and associated health care providers will be provided educational opportunities in regard to sports related concussion and concussion management prior to each sporting season.”
    • Coaches should be completely versed in appropriate sizing and fitting of all protective equipment (e.g., helmets).
    • Coaches should also educate players and reinforce the proper fundamental skills that help protect them from head or other injury.

    Signs and Symptoms of a Head or Neck Injury

    Signs (what is observed by others)

    • Appears dazed or stunned
    • Is confused about assignment or position
    • Forgets an instruction
    • Is unsure of game, score, or opponent
    • Moves clumsily
    • Answers questions slowly
    • Shows mood, behavior, or personality changes
    • Can’t recall events prior to hit or fall
    • Can’t recall events after hit or fall
    • Holding neck after hit or fall
    • Unresponsive or unconscious after hit or fall to the head/neck

    Symptoms (what athlete states)

    • Headache or “pressure in head”
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Balance problems or dizziness
    • Double or blurry vision
    • Sensitivity to light or noise
    • Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy, or groggy
    • Concentration or memory problems
    • Confusion
    • Fatigue
    • Complains of neck pain or tightness
    • Cannot move neck

    Other Possible Emergency Conditions

    Asthma: affects the way in which people breathe. Our airways are like “hollow tree branches” and air sacs are the gas exchanging “leaves” of our lung tree.  Our airways are surrounded by muscle like bark covering a tree trunk and its branches. People with asthma have very “twitchy” airways that tend to become irritated and inflamed easily. These airways tend to overreact when they come in contact with certain triggers.

    Common triggers:

    • Weather change or cold air
    • Colds, upper respiratory infections, ear, or sinus infections
    • Exercise
    • Allergens such as pet dander, dust mite, mold, pollen, and cockroaches
    • Irritants such perfumes, cigarette smoke, and strong odors

    What happens during an asthma attack?

    • The muscles surrounding the airways tighten 
    • Excessive mucus is secreted into the airway which can plug it up 
    • The airway becomes inflamed and swollen
    • Our airways become very narrow which makes it difficult to breathe 

    Signs and Symptoms of an Asthma Attack:

    • Frequent cough worse at night and with exercise
    • High-pitched sounds made by the lungs while breathing out
    • Chest tightness
    • Sucking in of the skin between the ribs
    • Fast breathing at rest and shortness of breath
    • Difficulty with speaking or eating because of fast breathing

    What we are doing in DCPS:

    • Athletes are required to have a preparticipation physical exam
    • Certified athletic trainers and coaches are aware of the athletes at-risk of this medical condition 
    • Athletes are required to have their pump at the start of practices/games