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Sudden cardiac death among competitive adult athletes: a review

Lookup NU author(s): Dr John Bourke, Professor Vijay KunadianORCiD


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Sudden cardiac death is the leading cause of mortality among young athletes with an incidence of 1-2 per 100 000 athletes per annum. It is described as 'an event that is non-traumatic, non-violent, unexpected, and resulting from sudden cardiac arrest within six hours of previously witnessed normal health'. Most predisposed athletes have no symptoms and there is no warning for the impending tragic event. The majority of cases are caused by an underlying structural cardiac abnormality, most commonly hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. More recently, the understanding of non-structural causes such as long QT syndrome and Brugada syndrome has grown and diagnostic criteria have been developed. This review presents the known aetiologies of sudden cardiac death among athletes and outlines their identification and management including implications for future sporting participation as laid out in the consensus documents produced by the European Society of Cardiology and the 36th Bethesda Conference.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Pugh A, Bourke JP, Kunadian V

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: Postgraduate Medical Journal

Year: 2012

Volume: 88

Issue: 1041

Pages: 382-390

Print publication date: 23/02/2012

ISSN (print): 0032-5473

ISSN (electronic): 1469-0756



DOI: 10.1136/postgradmedj-2011-130215