Survival After Exercise-Related Sudden Cardiac Arrest in Young Athletes: Can We Do Better?

Journal Article (Journal Article)

BACKGROUND:: Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is the leading cause of death in young athletes during sports. HYPOTHESIS:: Survival after SCA in young athletes is variable. STUDY DESIGN:: Prospective, active surveillance study. LEVEL OF EVIDENCE:: Level 3. METHODS:: From July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2016, exercise-related SCA in competitive young athletes was identified through a systematic search of traditional and social media sources, direct reporting to the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research, searching of the National Collegiate Athletic Association Resolutions List, regular communication with national and state high school athletic associations, and review of cases in the Parent Heart Watch database. RESULTS:: A total of 132 cases were identified during the 2-year study period (mean patient age, 16 years; age range, 11-27 years; 84% male; 51% white non-Hispanic/Latino, 30% black/African American, and 11% white Hispanic/Latino). High school athletes accounted for 78 (59%) cases, with 28 (21%) in middle school and 15 (11%) in college athletes. Overall survival was 48% (95% CI, 40%-57%; 64 survivors, 68 deaths). Survival was similar in male versus female athletes but higher in white non-Hispanic/Latino (40/67; 60%) versus black/African American (13/39; 33%) athletes (difference, 27%; 95% CI, 7%-45%; P = 0.008) and white non-Hispanic/Latino versus all minority (18/59; 31%) athletes (difference, 29%; 95% CI, 13%-46%; P = 0.001). Basketball accounted for 30% of cases, followed by football (25%), track/cross-country (12%), and soccer (11%). The majority (93%) of cases were witnessed. If a certified athletic trainer was on-site and involved in the resuscitation, 83% of athletes survived. If an on-site automated external defibrillator was used in the resuscitation, 89% of athletes survived. CONCLUSION:: Exercise-related SCA in young, competitive athletes is typically witnessed, providing an opportunity for rapid resuscitation. Additional research is needed to identify factors that affect survival in different athlete populations. CLINICAL RELEVANCE:: Public access defibrillator programs should be universal in schools and youth sporting venues and have the potential to increase survival after SCA in young athletes.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Drezner, JA; Peterson, DF; Siebert, DM; Thomas, LC; Lopez-Anderson, M; Suchsland, MZ; Harmon, KG; Kucera, KL

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 11 / 1

Start / End Page

  • 91 - 98

PubMed ID

  • 30204540

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC6299352

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1941-0921

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1177/1941738118799084


  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States