Sudden cardiac arrest is the number one cause of athlete deaths in the country.

Governor Jack Markell was at Middletown High School today signing a bill aimed at protecting student athletes.

Surrounded by members of the football team and cheerleading squad, Markell signed into law Senate Bill 205, the Grace Firestone Act, named after a Tower Hill School student athlete who was almost lost to sudden cardiac arrest in 2011.

“This can happen to anyone. Grace was an all-star athlete. Thank God she is here today to help sign the bill,” Markell said.

A serious heart condition, sudden cardiac arrest is the number one cause of athlete deaths in the playing field, according to State Sen. Bethany Hall-Long (D-10th District), a co-sponsor of the bill and also a nurse by profession.

A volleyball and soccer star, Firestone came close to death two days after her high school graduation. She collapsed on her bed soon after returning from working out at her local YMCA. While Firestone’s mother called 911, her brother performed CPR until paramedics arrived.

“They checked for drugs, wondering why a kid like me would collapse like that,” said Firestone from the podium at the bill signing ceremony. “I was rushed to the hospital’s emergency room.”

Firestone’s story moved her father, Greer Firestone, to found A Heart in the Game, a non-profit organization that raises awareness about sudden cardiac arrest and promotes electrocardiogram (EKG) screening for student athletes.

Greer Firestone got the attention of lawmakers and the bill overwhelming passed both chambers.

According to a press release, the law will require the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association (DIAA) to draft regulations to identify symptoms and risk factors of sudden cardiac arrest in student athletes. The legislation also aims to better identify at-risk students who participate in youth sports and raise awareness among coaches and administrators.

Middletown High School cheerleading captain Sara Hollen and football player Erich Schneider were among the students who welcomed Markell at the bill signing ceremony.

“I feel it’s important and I’m glad they are taking action,” said Hollen. “It’s something serious and I’m glad they are acknowledging it and doing something about it.”

“I’ve heard about it on TV,” said Schneider. “I know it happens and it’s one important reason why we take our physicals.”

Learning about the heart condition is critical for all students, Grace Firestone said. She also credits her brother’s knowledge of CPR in helping save her life and encouraged others to learn it as well.

“You can help your classmates. You can save lives,” she added.