The Dominic Murray Sudden Cardiac Arrest Prevention Act, known informally as Dominic’s Law, takes effect on July 1, 2022. The goal of the law is to promote safe interscholastic athletics and prevent incidents of sudden cardiac arrest in student-athletes.
The law is named for Dominic Murray, a 17-year-old who collapsed and died on a Farmingdale State College basketball court in 2009.
Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is defined as the abrupt and unexpected loss of heart function. SCA can be fatal if not treated within minutes, and even with treatment death may occur. Immediate treatment is cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and use of an automatic external defibrillator (AED).
The SCA Act requires school districts to provide information to parents/guardians of student-athletes prior to the student’s participation in any interscholastic athletics. The law also requires coaches to hold a valid certificate of completion of a first aid knowledge and skills course offered by a nationally recognized organization.
Although SCA is rare -the incidence of sudden cardiac death (SCD) on the playing field is 0.61 in 100,000 – there are steps parents/guardians and school personnel can take to identify students who may be at risk and help to identify students exhibiting signs or symptoms.
These signs or symptoms may be misinterpreted or disregarded by the student or others, but are an important indication that a student should be seen by a healthcare provider for an evaluation. Additionally, a student may have personal risk factors or family history risk factors that indicate they are potentially at increased risk for SCA and should be evaluated by a healthcare provider prior to participating in athletics.
Preventing SCA before it happens is the best way to save a life. An Athletic Health History must be completed prior to each sports season for student-athletes unless a physical examination has been conducted within 30 days before the start of the season.
Signs & symptoms of SCA
The signs and symptoms, and risk factors listed below, developed in collaboration with the NYS Department of Health and pediatric cardiologists, indicate when a student may be at risk for SCA.
Signs and symptoms:
- Fainting or seizure, especially during or right after exercise or with excitement or startle
- Racing heart, palpitations, or irregular heartbeat
- Dizziness, lightheadedness, or extreme fatigue with exercise
- Chest pain or discomfort with exercise
- Excessive shortness of breath during exercise
- Excessive, unexpected fatigue during or after exercise
Risk Factors – Personal:
- Use of diet pills, performance-enhancing supplements, energy drinks, or drugs such as cocaine, inhalants, or “recreational” drugs
- Elevated blood pressure or cholesterol
- History of health care provider-ordered test(s) for heart-related issues
Risk Factors – Family History:
- Family history of known heart abnormalities or sudden death before 50 years of age
- Family members with unexplained fainting, seizures, drowning, near drowning or car accidents before 50 years of age
- Structural heart abnormality, repaired or unrepaired
- Any relative diagnosed with the following conditions:
- Enlarged Heart/ Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy/Dilated Cardiomyopathy
- Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy
- Heart rhythm problems, long or short QT interval
- Brugada Syndrome
- Catecholaminergic Ventricular Tachycardia
- Marfan Syndrome – aortic rupture
- Heart attack at 50 years of age or younger
- Pacemaker or implanted cardiac defibrillator (ICD)
Any student with such signs or symptoms, family history or personal risk factors should be evaluated by a healthcare provider before participating in athletics. This is important since SCA can be triggered by athletic activities in students at risk.
It is imperative that students are educated on the risks and symptoms of SCA and encouraged to report any of the signs or symptoms to their coach or athletic trainer, and parent/guardian. Administration, coaches and athletic trainers will foster a culture of acceptance where the health and safety of the athletes are foremost, as early identification and treatment of a student at risk of SCA may save their life.
Any student displaying signs or symptoms of pending SCA must be immediately removed from athletic activities and not resume athletic activities until they have been evaluated by and received written signed authorization to resume from a licensed physician. This authorization must be kept on file in the student’s cumulative health record maintained by the school.
Finally, the law requires that coaches of extra class athletic activities in both public and nonpublic schools complete a course in first aid knowledge and skills from a nationally recognized organization. The course must include instruction in recognizing signs and symptoms of cardiac arrest or sudden cardiac arrest.