Fitness SCA & AED Facts

September 02, 2020 | Last Updated: July 27, 2021

Kemoy Campbell, Olympic athlete and Jamacian national record holder, would likely have characterized himself as a perfectly healthy person. He dedicated his track and field career to achieving peak athletic performance and competing against the best in the world. But one day, while running at New York’s Millrose Games, he collapsed unexpectedly on the track in Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA). His heart had stopped and he was clinically dead. Fortunately, bystanders at the facility took action by performing CPR and using an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) to restart his heart and save his life. 


"Oh yeah, we athletes think it’ll never happen to us."

– Kemoy Campbell

SCA affects people of all ages, even athletes who are seemingly healthy and have no known medical conditions. For gyms and athletic organizations, it is important to understand the risk of SCA among athletes and know that Sudden Cardiac Arrest can happen to anyone, especially during exercise. 

Let’s Start with the Facts

  • SCA is a leading cause of death in the United States that claims over 350,000 lives every year, including over 7,000 youth under the age of 18
  • SCA is the  #1 cause of death for people over 40
  • SCA is the #1 cause of death for student-athletes
  • Most young athletes who have a potentially lethal cardiac disorder have no warning signs or previous symptoms before experiencing SCA
  • Athletes are estimated to be 3x more likely to suffer SCA than non-athletes
  • While regular exercise is beneficial for heart health, physical activity can transiently increase risk of SCA
  • Among people with coronary artery disease, there is up to a 17-fold increased risk of SCA associated with 30 minutes of vigorous exercise

AEDs are Proven to Save Lives in Gyms and Athletics

Given the risk of SCA during exercise, facilities and organizations like gyms, health clubs, and athletic teams have a responsibility to protect the lives of their patrons and participants. Fortunately, AEDs are a safe and effective way to treat victims of SCA. Having an AED at the gym is proven to significantly increase SCA survival and save lives! 

Research from an 18-year study presented at the European Society of Cardiology found that SCA victims are over 9x more likely to survive in a gym with an AED than in a gym without an AED!


Another study conducted in the United States looking at 849 SCAs over 10 years found that people were significantly more likely to survive SCA in an athletic facility. Specifically, 56% of people survived SCA at gyms and fitness centers compared to 34% surviving in other public outdoor spaces. Why? Because gyms are more likely to have a lifesaving AED nearby! Immediate response to a SCA with CPR and shocks from an AED dramatically increases the chance that a victim will survive. 


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