Sudden Cardiac Arrest in Athletes

Cardiac arrest is the leading cause of death in young athletes, but the incidence of it is unclear. Perhaps 1 in every 50,000 sudden cardiac deaths a year occurs in young athletes.

Sudden death in people younger than 35, often due to undiscovered heart defects or overlooked heart abnormalities, is rare. When these sudden deaths occur, it’s often during physical activity, such as playing a sport, and more often occurs in males than in females.

Most deaths due to cardiac arrest are in older adults, particularly those with coronary artery disease. Cardiac arrest is the leading cause of death in young athletes, but the incidence of it is unclear. Perhaps 1 in every 50,000 sudden cardiac deaths a year occurs in young athletes.

What can cause sudden cardiac death in young people?

The causes of sudden cardiac death in young people vary. Most often, death is due to a heart abnormality.

For a variety of reasons, something causes the heart to beat out of control. This abnormal heart rhythm is known as ventricular fibrillation.

Are there symptoms or red flags parents, coaches and others should be on the lookout for that signal a young person is at high risk of sudden cardiac death?

Many times these deaths occur with no warning, indications to watch for include:

  • Unexplained fainting (syncope). If this occurs during physical activity, it could be a sign that there’s a problem with your heart.
  • Family history of sudden cardiac death. The other major warning sign is a family history of unexplained deaths before the age of 50. If this has occurred in your family, talk with your doctor about screening options. 

Shortness of breath or chest pain could indicate that you’re at risk of sudden cardiac death. They could also indicate other health problems in young people, such as asthma.

MCP First Aid Training provides approved, regulated training courses in First Aid, Sports First Aid, AED Training, CPR,

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