Sudden Cardiac Death in Athletes

Mark S. Link, N. A. Mark Estes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Sudden cardiac death in athletes is an uncommon but extremely visible event because of the high profile of amateur and professional athletes and the expected excellent health of these athletes. However, paradoxically, athletic performance may immediately increase the risk of ventricular arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death while run reducing atherosclerosis, which thus improves cardiovascular health and longevity. In athletes younger than 30 years, the most common underlying causes are due to inherited heart disease. In the older athletes, sudden death is generally due to arrhythmias in the context of coronary artery disease. Many athletes with aborted sudden death, arrhythmia-related syncope, or high-risk genetic disorders benefit from therapy with implanted cardioverter/defibrillators (ICDs) . Although ICD therapy can effectively abort sudden death, implantation of an ICD generally prohibits an individual from all competitive athletics except low-intensity sports. The screening of athletes has been notoriously inadequate; however, the optimal screening strategies have yet to be determined. Recommendations for participation in competitive athletics generally follow the recently published 36th Bethesda Conference Eligibility Recommendations for Competitive Athletes with Cardiovascular Abnormalities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)44-57
Number of pages14
JournalProgress in Cardiovascular Diseases
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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