Sudden Cardiac Death in Athletes: Facts and Fallacies

Jennie Han Andrea Lalario, Enzo Merro, Gianfranco Sinagra, Sanjay Sharma, Michael Papadakis, Gherardo Finocchiaro. Journal of cardiovascular development and disease. 2023 Feb 5. Read the paper here

The benefits of exercise for cardiovascular and general health are many. However, sudden cardiac death (SCD) may occur in apparently healthy athletes who perform at the highest levels. A diverse spectrum of diseases is implicated in SCD in athletes, and while atherosclerotic coronary artery disease predominates in individuals of >35 years of age, primary cardiomyopathies and ion channelopathies are prevalent in young individuals. Prevention of SCD in athletes relies on the implementation of health policies aimed at the early identification of arrhythmogenic diseases (such as cardiac screening) and successful resuscitation (such as widespread utilization of automatic external defibrillators and training members of the public on cardiopulmonary resuscitation). This review will focus on the epidemiology and aetiologies of SCD in athletes, and examine fallacies in the approach to this controversial field. Furthermore, potential strategies to prevent these tragic events will be discussed, analysing current practice, gaps in knowledge and future directions.