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Sudden Cardiac Deaths in Student Athletes

7 Apr

I have noticed in the news lately accounts of student athletes who have suddenly died during sporting events.

Wes Leonard was the most recent of these tragedies.  After hitting the game winning shot, the 16 year-old collapsed on the court and later died.

Not only is this terribly tragic but also incredibly concerning.  My initial reaction was why?!  What is causeing this?  Why now? I found this really informative article in the New York Times Health section yesterday that addressed a research study regarding sudden cardiace deaths in student athletes.

The article said that while it has been more common in the new lately, that the rates have not actually increased.  The number they gave for the typical number of student athletes who die during sporting events was still a lot higher than I expected.  They said that 1 in every 43,770 National Collegiate Athletic Association student-athletes (ages ranging from 17 to 23) experience sudden cardiac death per year.

It also said that black athletes and Division I basketball players were at the highest risk.  They reported that the number of black athletes that die as a result of sudden cardiac failure are 1 in 18,000!  They said the reason for this could be an increased incidence of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which is when parts of the heart muscle become think, making the heart have to work harder to get blood to pump.

Something that the article suggested in reducing the prevalence of this is having all athletes screened for cardiac abnormalities prior to participation in any sports.