Sudden Cardiac Death in Young Athletes

According to the Centers for Disease Control 5,000 young people between the ages of 15 and 34 years of age die annually from Sudden Cardiac Arrest. Sudden Cardiac Death in Young Athletes has a multitude of causes, among them are: Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, Coronary artery anomalies, Increased cardiac mass, Myocarditis, Arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia, Aortic stenosis, Premature atherosclerotic coronary artery disease, Dilated cardiomyopathy, Long QT syndrome, Cardiac trauma, Marfan’s Syndrome and Commotio Cordis (traumatic impact to the heart, e.g. puck or baseball.).

The number one cause of Sudden Cardiac Death in Young Athletes is undiagnosed Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, an abnormally enlarged heart muscle. Males are affected 10 times more frequently than females. Athletes playing basketball and football in the US or soccer players in Europe may be at highest risk as with athletes who have a family history of inherited gene anomalies such as Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy or Long QT syndrome (erratic arrhythmia).

Studies have shown that young people who die suddenly often have a history of dizziness or passing out during exercise, previous complaints of palpitations or chest pain during exercise, or a history of family members dying suddenly at a young age. Experts now say that this number can be decreased significantly by community awareness and implementation of screening programs for those felt to be at risk. Screening recommendations for all children, adolescents, and college-age young adults include: Medical, family, and Sudden Cardiac Death in Young Athletes drug history (including use of performance-enhancing drugs and drugs that predispose to long QT syndrome), Physical examination (including BP and supine and standing cardiac auscultation and Selected testing based on findings on history and physical exam.