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Statistics and Facts

People and Sport

  • Just over half of the UK’s 15+ population take part in sport occasionally (more than once a month). 18 million adults take part in sports less than once a month*
  • Swimming is the UK’s most popular sport generally*
  • Gym based activities, such as keep fit, aerobics, cycling and weight training have the highest levels of participation in the UK*

*Source: Mintel Report – Sports Participation, Leisure Intelligence, May 2007

The Problem

  • Research by Dr Sanjay Sharma concludes there are 395,000 people in the UK who may have an undiagnosed heart condition which could trigger sudden cardiac death, 130,000 of those people are under the age of 35
  • Exercise is associated with a 10 fold increase in the incidence of heart problems – until a heart scan is carried out heart conditions can remain dormant and undiagnosed
  • Every week in the UK, an estimated eight apparently healthy young people die from undiagnosed heart condition
  • Usually the young person will have died during normal activity such as eating, drinking, taking exercise or in their sleep – many of these deaths are preventable
  • Athletes regularly push themselves to their limits; because of this their hearts undergo a great deal of strain. The incidence of sudden death could therefore be greater in the athletic population
  • Many victims would have had symptoms that were not recognised. For athletes or people involved in sport, these may be pains in the chest or other side effects often associated with hard training
  • Some would have gone to a doctor or hospital and been sent home without having had an electrocardiogram (ECG), a basic test to measure the heart’s activity. If people are worried, CRY can organise an ECG scan for a small one off payment of £35.
  • Most of these deaths are due to inherited heart muscle disorders and irregular heart beats. If people involved in sport have a family history of heart problems or unexplained sudden death, the GP should be consulted and an ECG scan sought
  • Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy – a condition where the heart muscle becomes thicker than normal making it difficult for the heart to pump effectively – is the most common of these conditions, occurring in 1 in 500 people[i] or five times as common as cystic fibrosis
  • Coroners in the UK often record unexplained sudden death as natural causes. Until the law demands that coroners refer hearts to specialists, the true figures will remain unknown
  • An estimated 80% of all non-traumatic sudden deaths in young competitive athletes are due to heart conditions[ii]

The Solution

  • The 5 year research program being undertaken by CRY will allow researchers to gain a vital insight into the hearts of the most athletic people on the planet
  • Working with partners in Germany and the USA will allow CRY to pool a vast amount of professional cardiac data
  • Heart screening for everyone and professional support could significantly help to reduce the number of avoidable deaths – for everyone, fitness enthusiasts or not
  • The main tests to detect heart abnormalities are an ECG, which reads the electrical activity of the heart, and an echocardiogram (ECHO) which uses ultrasound waves to look at the structure of the heart
  • For the screening programme to be fully effective, all young people (aged 35 and under) involved in sporting activities need to undergo an ECG, a simple, non-invasive test that takes only a few minutes and can be done in schools
  • Raising awareness of Sudden Arrhythmia Death Syndrome (SADS) and the conditions that cause it can encourage young people to go for screening and alert doctors to the possibilities of heart problems in the young

To find out how to get active and participate in sport safely in your area, visit:

What is CRY and how does it help?

Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) is a charity founded in 1995 which:

  • Campaigns and lobbies to raise awareness that young people with undiagnosed cardiac abnormalities can die suddenly from heart problems
  • Provides a subsidised cardiac screening programme for young people aged 35 and under
  • Takes its mobile screening unit to sports clubs, schools and local communities
  • Campaigns to introduce routine screening for teenagers in secondary schools
  • Provides counselling support to bereaved families and diagnosed individuals
  • Provides medical information on the most common causes of unexpected sudden cardiac death in young people
  • Supports medical research into the cause of young sudden cardiac death
  • Has donated cardiac equipment worth more than £400,000 to hospitals and doctors’ surgeries
  • Screens athletes at clinics in Northern Ireland, Colchester and at the CRY Centre for Sports Cardiology in Harrow – the first dedicated centre for sports cardiology in the world
  • Provides subsidised ECG, ECHO and cardiac consultations for athletes aged 14 to 35
  • Established the CRY Surgery Supporters Club for young people with heart conditions who have undergone potentially life saving surgery
  • Takes appointments for screening on 01737 363 222 or via
  • Educates the medical profession about the risks – the All Party Parliamentary Group for CRY was instrumental in getting a new chapter on abnormal heart rhythms and sudden cardiac death in government guideline for the medical practice, The National Service Framework for Coronary Heart Disease

How is Philips supporting CRY?

  • Philips is supplying some of the worlds most advanced hospital technology, in the form of ECG and ECHO scanners to CRY
  • Philips is underwriting the cost of the professional screening of 1500 elite athletes in the UK
  • Philips is generating publicity to help raise awareness of Sudden Cardiac Death Syndrome and the need for screening for anyone involved in sport who are worried about their heart