Preventing Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) in Athletes: Lessons From Bronny James’ Incident

In a shocking turn of events, Bronny James, the talented offspring of NBA superstar LeBron James, recently experienced a cardiac arrest during a basketball training session at the Galen Center, University of Southern California. Prompt medical attention and interventions have stabilized his condition, allowing him to recover and be discharged from the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). This incident sheds light on the critical issue of Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) in young athletes, drawing attention from both sports enthusiasts and medical professionals.

Understanding Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA)

Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is a sudden and unexpected loss of heart function, typically triggered by an abnormal heart rhythm. You may recall, this is what happened to Damar Hamlin as well during an NFL game in early 2023. While relatively rare in children and young adults, it remains the leading cause of death on school campuses and the number one cause of death for student athletes. Identifying the risk factors and symptoms associated with SCA is crucial in preventing such occurrences among young athletes.

Screening for SCA in Athletes

To address the concern of SCA in athletes, the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology recommend a comprehensive 14-point history and physical examination. In most cases, this evaluation, combined with an electrocardiogram (ECG), suffices for screening purposes. Athletes identified with heart conditions that may lead to Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD) are advised against participating in competitive sports. Regular health screenings, particularly for young athletes with personal risk factors or a family history of heart conditions, are paramount to detect any underlying issues that could increase the risk of SCA.

Recognizing SCA Risk Indicators

Being aware of potential risk indicators and warning signs for SCA is vital for coaches, parents, and athletes themselves. Some signs to watch out for include:

  1. Fainting or Seizures: Particularly during or immediately after exercise.
  2. Rapid or Irregular Heartbeat: Unusual heart rhythms during physical activity.
  3. Dizziness and Lightheadedness: Especially during or after exercise.
  4. Extreme Fatigue: Feeling excessively tired during exercise.
  5. Chest Pain or Discomfort: Experienced during physical activity.
  6. Excessive Shortness of Breath: Struggling to breathe during exercise.

Importance of Health Screenings for Young Athletes

Bronny James’ cardiac arrest incident underscores the significance of regular health screenings for young athletes. Such evaluations can help identify any underlying health issues that might otherwise go unnoticed. Young athletes with a personal or family history of heart conditions need to be particularly diligent about these screenings to mitigate the risk of SCA during sports activities. To learn more about the importance of heart screenings, check out our interview with Shawn Sima, Impact Director and Who We Play For.

The Critical Role of Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) in SCA Incidents

One crucial takeaway from the Bronny James incident is the undeniable importance of Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) in managing Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) events. Quick access to an AED during an SCA incident can be the difference between life and death. In fact, each minute that passes without defibrillation reduces the victim’s survival chances by 7-10%. Therefore, having AEDs readily available at sports training facilities, schools, and other places where athletic activities occur can dramatically increase the survival rates in these emergencies. Additionally, proper training in the use of AEDs for coaches, athletic trainers, and other staff is equally essential. The combination of rapid CPR and immediate access to defibrillation offers the best chance for survival until professional medical help can arrive. In Bronny James’s case, the immediate medical intervention, and defibrillation of a ZOLL AED, he received played a significant role in his recovery. Therefore, it is a call for all sports institutions, schools, and public facilities to ensure the availability of AEDs and provide essential training for their use. In the face of cardiac emergencies, a robust response system that includes AED access can save precious lives and preserve the vibrant futures of our young athletes.


The incident involving Bronny James serves as a poignant reminder of the potential risks young athletes may face during sports activities. By prioritizing regular health screenings and diligently addressing any identified risk factors, we can work towards minimizing the occurrence of Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) in the sports community. Both sports organizations and medical professionals should collaborate to implement comprehensive screening protocols that can safeguard the well-being of these promising young athletes. Through increased awareness, proactive measures, and a commitment to athlete safety, we can create a safer environment for athletes like Bronny James to pursue their passions and dreams on the court.

Blog By Jenna AlvichWritten by Jenna Alvich Digital Marketing Manager
Jenna was raised in Dublin, Ohio before she moved to Florida and attended Florida State University to earn a degree in Information, Communication, and Technology. She took her retail management and marketing experience to Nashville where she found CoroMed and grew passionate about the AED industry. Jenna is American Red Cross Adult AED/CPR and Infant CPR certified and strives to spread CPR and AED awareness through all platforms. When she’s not working, you can find her hanging out with her dog, on an adventure with friends in the city, or kayaking on the river.

Last updated July 26, 2023