(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Tim Eustace, Mila M. Jasey and Marlene Caride to help prevent sudden cardiac arrest among student athletes by educating students, parents and coaches about the warning signs and mandating the removal of student athletes who exhibit such symptoms during a sporting activity was approved Thursday by the General Assembly.
“While sudden cardiac arrest can strike anyone who is idle, the risk is much greater in competitive athletes,” said Eustace (D-Bergen). “It is vital that student athletes and the adults charged with their care are informed so that they can recognize the problem signs before they become fatal.”
“Young athletes often dismiss signs of heart trouble like dizziness and shortness of breath as routine side effects of exercise,” said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). “Educating these students, their parents and coaches about these symptoms can help identify student athletes at risk and help save a life.”
“It can be hard to imagine how a seemingly healthy and fit individual who is so agile on the field can have an underlying heart problem,” said Caride (D-Bergen/Passaic). “But it happens and has cost some their lives. Being able to recognize the warning signs can help prevent potential tragedies.”
The bill (A-4415) imposes various requirements designed to provide student-athletes, their parents or guardians, coaches and other school officials with information concerning the nature and symptoms of sudden cardiac arrest, and establish protocols for the removal-from-play of student-athletes who experience symptoms while participating in athletic activities or prior to or after such participation. These requirements are applicable to athletic activities that are sponsored by or associated with a school district or nonpublic school, including interscholastic athletics.
Under current law, the state Commissioner of Education is required to develop a pamphlet that provides the parents and guardians of student-athletes with information about sudden cardiac death. Per the law, the pamphlet must be distributed to each school district in the state.
The bill approved today makes changes to that law, including requiring that the pamphlet also be distributed to nonpublic schools and include certain specific symptoms of sudden cardiac arrest, as well as a form to be signed by the student-athlete and his parent or guardian acknowledging receipt and review of the pamphlet. Under the bill, each student-athlete and his or her parent or guardian must sign the form and return it to his or her school in order to be eligible to participate in a school-sponsored athletic activity.
The bill also establishes protocols for the removal-from-play of student-athletes exhibiting symptoms of sudden cardiac arrest. A student-athlete who exhibits symptoms of sudden cardiac arrest while participating in an athletic activity must be immediately removed from the activity by the team coach. A student who exhibits symptoms of sudden cardiac arrest prior to or after an athletic activity is also prohibited from participating in an athletic activity. The student will not be eligible to return to athletic activity until he is evaluated and receives written clearance from a licensed physician. The bill specifies that the board of education or the governing body or chief school administrator of a nonpublic school, as appropriate, must impose certain penalties on a coach who violates these protocols.
Lastly, the bill provides that a person who coaches a school district or nonpublic school athletic activity must hold a current certification in cardio-pulmonary resuscitation from the American Red Cross, American Heart Association, or other training program recognized by the Department of Health.
The bill was approved 79-0 and now heads to the Senate for further consideration.