AED and School Athletics

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Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is one of the leading causes of death in young athletes in America. To prevent such fatalities, the American Heart Association (AHA) has designed a 14-point screening program that learning institutions can use to identify young athletes at risk of SCA. Additionally, many high schools today require their athletic departments to have AEDs, or automated external defibrillators, at hand for sudden attacks, in addition to following the AHA’s SCA-screening recommendations.

To learn more, check out the infographic below created by Ohio University’s Online Master of Athletic Administration program.

AED and School Athletics infographic

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Sudden Cardiac Arrest in Young People

Figures published by the American Heart Association show that sudden cardiac arrest is responsible for more than 300,000 annually, making it the most common cause of death in America. SCA is responsible for about 326,200 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests every year. The survival rates of patients who experience out-of-hospital cardiac arrests vary depending on a patient’s general health, the presence of bystanders and prompt treatment by emergency medical responders. For instance, data published by the Resuscitation Outcomes Consortium shows that 10.6% of SCA victims who are treated immediately by emergency medical services survive. Furthermore, the survival rates are significantly higher (31.4%) when bystanders intervene and patients have a heart rhythm that would allow medical personnel to use a defibrillator.

Still, fatalities caused by sudden cardiac arrest among young people have been rising steadily over the last 10 years. The rate of SCA deaths among young people increased from 6,300 in 2005 to 7,000 in 2015. Additionally, 6,328 people under 18 years of age experience EMS-assessed out-of-hospital cardiac arrests (OHCA) annually. High school students account for 54% of all reported cardiovascular deaths, and girls make up just 11% of the total figure. Most cardiovascular deaths in high schools (82%) are attributable to physical exertion during competitive events or training. The survival rate for those who experience sudden cardiac arrest while in the presence of bystanders and have the first-recorded rhythm of VF is 53.3%. For individuals who experience an EMS-treated, nontraumatic cardiac arrest accompanied by any first-recorded rhythm, the survival rate is 7.3%. These statistics show that sudden cardiac arrest is a serious health problem that could lead to death if victims do not receive proper medical help immediately.

More SCA Related Statistics and Research

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), sudden cardiac arrest is responsible for 7,000 deaths annually among Americans aged 15 to 34 years. In the last decade alone, this figure has risen by 10%, which is worrying because advances in medical research, universal health coverage, and improvements in medical services do not seem to be lowering the rate of cardiovascular deaths. Among younger Americans, sudden cardiac arrest affects one out of every 200,000 high school athletes. Moreover, SCA is the leading cause of death among young athletes, especially in high school. In fact, SCA accounts for up to 75% of all fatalities in this age demographic. A study carried out by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) found that one SCA fatality occurs per 22,903 students aged 17 to 24 years who participate in NCAA sports every year. Once again, this shows young athletes are prone to sudden cardiac arrest and underscores the importance of having AEDs during competitive sports events or training.

AED Regulations at the State Level

Some states in the US have enacted regulations governing the use of AEDs in public schools. Examples of these states include:

  • Arkansas: All schools in the state of Arkansas should have AEDs.
  • Alabama: In Alabama, public schools serving grades K-12 are required to have AEDs.
  • Oregon: The state of Oregon requires public and private schools, colleges, and institutions of higher education to have AEDs within their premises. AED is defined as “medical care” in Oregon.
  • North Dakota: AEDs are a mandatory requirement in both public and private schools. Moreover, North Dakota’s Department of Health must be notified of the location of AEDs.
  • Michigan: K-12 schools and high schools should have AEDs. However, this requirement is contingent on the availability of funding.
  • Maine: Schools serving grades K-12 are required to have AEDs. This is in addition to AEDs being present at all school-sponsored athletic events.
  • New York: Public schools with more than 1,000 students must provide and maintain on-site AED equipment. School-sponsored events must also have at least one AED trained staff and AED equipment as well.
  • Massachusetts: All public schools must have AED equipment on-site.
  • Connecticut: All schools (public and private), especially athletic departments at higher education institutions, should have AEDs. However, this requirement is contingent on the availability of funding.
  • New Jersey: All public and private K-12 schools are required to have AEDs.
  • Maryland: Schools must acquire and maintain AEDs. Moreover, they should have AEDs at all school-sponsored events.
  • Kentucky: Public and private schools are required to have AEDs on-site as well as at their athletic events on the road.
  • Tennessee: All public schools should have AEDs contingent on the availability of funding.
  • South Carolina: High schools should acquire and maintain AEDs.
  • Florida: All public schools with athletic departments are required to have AEDs. Furthermore, schools should ensure the proper maintenance of their AED equipment.
  • Georgia: All public schools should have AED equipment.
  • Louisiana: Any institution that offers higher education programs and participates in intercollegiate athletics should have AEDs. High schools that participate in interscholastic athletics must also have the same equipment contingent on the availability of funding.
  • Texas: All schools, including charter schools, should have AEDs.
  • Hawaii: All public and private schools and colleges must have AEDs.
  • Nevada: High schools and colleges are required to have AEDs.

Survival Rates of Young Athletes when AEDs are Used

For starters, AEDs are safe and can be used by any bystander including untrained individuals. However, delaying the use of AEDS during SCA events leads to low survival rates for young athletes. For every minute AED administration is delayed, survival rates of SCA victims fall by 7% to 10%. When AEDs are used, the survival rate of student-athletes rises to 64%. Public access to defibrillation equipment improves survival rates by 41% to 74% when someone experiencing a cardiac arrest receives cardiopulmonary resuscitation within 3 to 5 minutes.


AEDs are important because statistical evidence shows they save lives, especially the lives of young male athletes who are likely to die from SCA when AEDs are not available. As such, most US states have enacted regulations requiring schools to have AEDs on-site and at school-sponsored events.

Learn More

Ohio University’s online Master of Athletic Administration program specializes in developing interscholastic Athletic Directors, building on the students’ passion for serving young student-athletes and running a highly-successful athletic department. Ohio University is a pioneer in sports education. By establishing the first academic program in the field of sports administration, this online program is recognized today as the premier professional training program for candidates seeking careers in the sports industry.