Sudden Impact

Following the death of 26-year-old runner Anna Loyley minutes after the 1998 Bath Half, UK Athletics, in conjunction with the National Sports Medicine Institute, established an expert panel to examine the issue of screening runners who take part in road races. The goal was to identify the heart disorders that cause Sudden Death Syndrome (SDS).
SDS claims four victims every week in the UK alone, and is the most common cause of unexpected death in people under 30. It normally affects otherwise fit and healthy individuals.
'While sport is not a direct cause, it can trigger the condition,' says Alison Cox of the charity Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY). 'For a young person who has an existing heart condition, but doesn't know about it, the amount of effort they give to sport can significantly increase their risk of cardiac arrest.'
CRY is campaigning for widespread screening of youngsters who take part in sports and fitness activities. It runs a mobile screening unit that offers subsidised rates to athletics clubs.
'The incidence of sudden death in mass running events remains relatively rare, at around one in 80,000 runners, but it's definitely something we are focusing our attention on, ' says Dr Malcolm Brown, medical director of UK athletics. 'Initially, we're planning a questionnaire of risk assessment, then we'll use the results to determine whether runners need a referral for more tests.'
In Italy, research on sudden death in young people was enough to convince experts that cardiovascular screening was a vital step in identifying individuals at risk. As a result, every Italian athlete must undergo assessments and obtain a fitness certificate before they can compete in any sporting event.
For information regarding SDS, contact CRY, PO BOX 28, Ashtead, Surrey, KT21 1BW; 01372 276187; e-mail;
Listen to Your Heart
Take a minute to look at this checklist, created by RW Medical Advisor Dr Patrick Milroy. If you answer yes to any of the following questions, then it's well worth visiting your GP – if anything, it will just put your mind at rest. Don't worry though, because as a runner you're likely to be the fittest person your doc sees that day. 1. Have you ever experienced any pain or discomfort in your chest, especially during exercise? 2. Has this chest pain ever been accompanied by pain in your left shoulder or neck? 3. Have you ever felt short of breath, either at rest or following lower levels of exertion than you're used to? 4. Have your ankles ever swollen unexpectedly? 5. Is your pulse ever unsteady or irregular? 6. Have you ever experienced palpitations, or a thumping in your chest, particularly at rest? 7. Do you have a congenital heart problem? 8. Have you been diagnosed with high blood pressure, but left it untreated? 9. Is there a history of heart attacks or strokes in your immediate family? 10. Do you have a family history of abnormally high levels of blood cholesterol (hypercholesterolaemia)?