Causes & Measures to Prevent Sudden Cardiac Death in Athletes

Research Paper Title

Sudden Cardiac Death in Athletes.


Sudden cardiac death is defined as an unexpected death, occurring usually within one hour from onset of symptoms in cases where the death is witnessed and in unwitnessed cases within 24 hours of the individual last being seen alive and well.

Sudden cardiac death in athletes is the leading cause of medical death in this subgroup, with an estimated incidence of 1 in 50,000 to 1 in 80,000 athletes per year, although a wide range has
been reported, from 1 in 3000 in some sub-populations to 1 in 1,000,000.

Males, black or African Americans, and basketball players seem to be at a higher risk than other subgroups.

Although rare, sudden cardiac death in athletes is important because of its impact within both the sporting community and the general community. The widely held perception is that athletes represent examples of health and vitality, so the sudden cardiac death of an athlete can evoke strong emotions and disbelief.

The esteem in which athletes are held, in combination with often highly emotive reporting from the media, means that these events are tragedies not only on a personal family level but also at a public level.

This review summarises the common causes of sudden cardiac death in athletes and examines whether systematic training can confer increased risk for the condition. Also considered are the measures that can be undertaken to prevent sudden cardiac death.


BMJ 2015;350:h1218 doi: 10.1136/bmj.h1218 (Published 18 March 2015)


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