According to a June 2016 paper published by the Mayo Clinic, sudden cardiac arrest is the most common cause of mortality among young athletes. Many people are thinking about their cardiovascular health after the shocking collapse of Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin on the field.
Sudden cardiac arrest is the greatest cause of mortality for young athletes, a shocking number that may come as a surprise to parents whose children participate in sports on the field, court, or elsewhere. Thus, the question arises, why athletes in particular?
“We should remember that athletes are probably some of our — especially our younger athletes — are some of the healthiest people in our communities, but there are things that can cause sudden cardiac arrest or sudden cardiac death,” Dr. Abinash Achrekar, Vice Chair of Internal Medicine in the cardiology division at UNM Health said.
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The Mayo Clinic found that the majority of adults who die of cardiac arrest already had heart disease. The article also notes that between 50,000 and 80,000 young athletes die suddenly from cardiac causes annually.
Dr. Achrekar maintains that these instances are extremely unusual. Although the death of a young athlete is extremely unusual, cardiac causes have been suggested as a possible explanation by Dr. Achrekar, who believes that this article is trying to make that point.
It’s crucial to keep an eye on young athletes and make sure they pass annual physicals, but knowing their family history is also critical.
Dr. Achrekar said, “Those would be things that would pique my interest in having at least a visit to their primary care physician.” “If you’ve had a first-degree or even second-degree relative that’s had a sudden death, meaning they had a heart attack and did not recover from it or they passed out and never woke up,” he continued.
When analyzing cardiac arrest in young adults and teenagers, it is important to consider a variety of potential reasons.
“I think this article is trying to point out that if young athletes die, and it’s incredibly rare, a cardiac etiology may be the source of that death,” Dr. Achrekar said.
“Those with particularly thick heart muscles, people who have experienced arrhythmias before to this occurrence are at increased risk,” Dr. Achrekar said of those who are more likely to experience sudden cardiac arrest.
Coaches and trainers may step up and aid by listening to athletes when they suspect anything is amiss and dispelling the myth that everything is “normal” throughout training and competition.
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Dr. Achrekar believes it is especially important for our youngest athletes to be encouraged to be transparent, and that they are hearing this from their leadership, coaches, and trainers.
While these incidents are thankfully still quite uncommon, the statistics are nonetheless high enough to serve as a reminder to keep an eye on your children and young athletes.
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