Sports-associated sudden cardiac arrest rare in middle-age people

Sports-associated sudden cardiac arrests (SCAs) were rare among a group of middle-age people in the northwestern U.S., according to a prospective, population-based study. Of the SCAs that occurred between February 2002 and January 2013, 5 percent were sports-associated.

The overall incidence of sports-associated SCAs was 21.7 per million per year compared with 555 per million per year for nonsports-associated SCAs.

Lead researcher Eloi Marijon, MD, PhD, of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, Calif., and colleagues published their findings online April 6 in Circulation.

They examined the Oregon Sudden Unexpected Death Study, a community-based prospective study of out-of-hospital SCA. They identified cases of SCA in the Portland, Ore., metropolitan area for the 10-year period and included men and women who were between 35 and 65 years of age.

The researchers found 63 sports-associated SCAs. The most common activities when the attacks occurred were during jogging (27 percent), basketball, (17 percent), cycling (14 percent), gym activities (11 percent), golfing (8 percent), volleyball (3 percent), tennis (3 percent) and soccer (3 percent).

In 76 percent of the cases, SCAs occurred during the sports activity, while the remaining 24 percent occurred within the following hour. Further, 58 percent occurred in sports facilities, while 42 percent occurred in the field.

Based on the findings, the researchers estimated the total number of sports-associated SCAs among the 35 to 65 year old age group was 2,269 events for men and 136 events for women.

The mean age of developing SCA during sports was 51.1, and people with sports-associated SCA were less likely to present with smoking, diabetes and heart disease compared with people who had regular SCA.

Of the people with sports-associated SCA, 16 percent had pre-existing cardiac disease, 56 percent had at least one cardiovascular risk factor and 36 percent had cardiovascular symptoms during the week before the SCA episode.

“The significant prevalence of known cardiovascular disease and prior symptoms in affected participants offers an opportunity for targeted education in order to maximize both safety and acceptance of sports activity in the middle-aged group,” the researchers wrote.