Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is the leading cause of death in exercising young athletes. Automated external defibrillators (AEDs) are an integral link in the "chain of survival" and their prompt use promotes higher survival rates for SCA. Public access defibrillation programs shorten the time interval between SCA and shock delivery and train likely responders in CPR and AED use. SCA should be assumed in any collapsed and unresponsive athlete. Prompt management of SCA can be life saving for athletes with SCA. This article reviews strategies for effective secondary prevention of sudden death in athletes and the critical role of AEDs. © 2013 Elsevier Inc.