Sudden Cardiac Death in Athletes: What Sport-Rehabilitation Specialists Need to Know

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Christian C. Evans
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Sandra L. Cassady
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Objective:

To describe the underlying conditions that predispose athletes to sudden cardiac death (SCD) and review signs and symptoms that indicate an athlete is at risk.

Data Sources:

MEDLINE, the Los Angeles Times and Triathlon Times archives, and other sources identified in the references of articles initially located therein. A total of 43 references were included.

Conclusions:

Most cases of SCD in younger athletes (≤35 years) are attributable to multiple hereditary conditions, with familial hyper-trophic cardiomyopathy being the primary cause, whereas the major cause of SCD in older athletes (>35 years) is coronary artery disease. Health-care professionals evaluating athletes should pay particular attention to past medical and family history. Items in an athlete’s screening that suggest increased risk include a history of chest pain, syncope, excessive shortness of breath, irregular heart rate or murmur, or a history of SCD in an immediate family member.

Evans is with the Physical Therapy Program, Midwestern University, Downers Grove, IL 60515. Cassady is with the Physical Therapy Dept, St Ambrose University, Davenport, IA 52803.

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