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What is Sudden Death in Sport?

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Sudden deaths under the age of 35 are among the rare deaths in the population. However, sudden deaths, especially in athletes at a young age, are often caused by a heart condition that is often hidden. These deaths occur especially during physical activity.

In order to prevent these deaths, the candidates of athletes who are particularly engaged in combat and performance sports (boxing, wrestling, judo, etc.) must undergo a cardiologist control.

Causes sudden cardiac death?

Although a wide variety of diseases, the majority of cases are structural abnormalities of the heart and conduction disorders.

Most common ailments

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy

In patients with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, the heart muscle (myocardium) thickens more than normal and makes it difficult for the heart to pump blood. Simultaneous contraction of muscle fibers in a normal heart muscle tissue is scattered in this disease. As a result, they cannot effectively contract. This thickening is especially in the muscle that separates the right and left ventricles of the heart. Although not fatal in most patients, athletes under the age of 30 are responsible for the majority of deaths.

Although there are many options in the treatment, it is decided according to the patient’s condition. Therapeutic methods, such as drug therapy, pacemaker implantation, surgical removal of the thickness, or catheter insertion into the heart, are possible. The risks and success percentages of all these methods are separate and should be applied to the patient in accordance with the decision taken jointly with the physician.

Coronary artery abnormalities

In these congenital disorders, the arteries feeding the heart are abnormally located. Because they cannot provide enough blood flow during exercise, the person may be in danger.

Long QT syndrome

The heart muscle is improperly beating fast or slow. It is an inherited rhythm disorder.


Fainting Sudden loss of consciousness, especially during exertion, may be the first sign of a possible heart condition and the cause should be investigated.

Family history of heart disease Before the age of 50, the history of sudden heart death in the family, especially in first degree relatives (mother, father, sibling), can often be the single most important clue.

Some of the above heart diseases may present with sudden death without any symptoms. Therefore, family history is the most important data that will enable the physician to investigate in more detail.

 How to prevent sudden cardiac death?

People with sudden cardiac death in their families, especially before the age of 50, should consult a physician. Some authorities recommend that young athletes, especially fight athletes, be screened by ECG. However, the ECG may not always reveal the disease.

Because of these conditions, family history remains the only clue for the physician and can save the patient’s life with early diagnosis.
It is very important that the patients who are diagnosed stay away from risky sports and follow the treatments recommended by their physicians.
ICD (pacemaker) may be required against sudden cardiac death, especially in diseases with intracardiac conduction disorders.

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