Are some young athletes playing with fire?

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Kaitlyn Dmyterko, Senior Writer

Each year an estimated 400,000 young men and women participate in collegiate athletics. This month, research published in Circulation showed that some National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) athletes may be playing with fire in terms of their risk to experience sudden cardiac death (SCD).

Harmon et al from the University of Washington in Seattle found that one in 44,000 NCAA athletes experiences SCD. SCD strikes 1,000 people every two minutes, according to the Heart Rhythm foundation, which leaves the NCAA wondering whether or not a more extensive screening process should be undertaken.

 The study showed that NCAA Division I basketball players experienced the highest incidence of SCD (one in almost 12,000) and African-American athletes experienced a greater frequency of SCD compared to their white counterparts.

Harmon et al urged that a greater initiative to place AEDs in high-risk sport venues should be undertaken.

At this year’s scientific sessions of the American College of Cardiology, researchers from the Minneapolis Heart Institute found that sickle cell trait may be linked to sudden cardiac death, particularly in young athletes.

In fact, Dr. Kevin M. Harris told Cardiovascular Business that one-third of the deaths found within the data were football athletes and 82 percent of these deaths were linked directly to sickle cell trait. Of the almost 3,000 deaths within the registry, 22 athletes had sickle cell trait and in 15 cases this was the primary cause of death. Additionally, all patients who died were African-American.

Harris concluded that with proper training, recognition, screening and modification, perhaps these deaths could be prevented.

Lastly, a study this month in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that marathon runners may be more prone to experience sudden cardiac death. In fact, the researchers found that sudden cardiac arrest occurred in one in 45,531 runners and one in 128,316 runners experienced death.

To help thwart off SCD at this year’s Boston Marathon, AEDs were placed at 26 strategic locations along the 26.2-mile course to help better facilitate care to runners who may be stricken. While only one event took place where an external defibrillator was put to use, Chris Troyanos, Boston Marathon medical coordinator, told Cardiovascular Business that the goal was treat sudden cardiac arrest patients within four minutes, due to the fact that with each passing minute the chance of death increases by 7 to 10 percent.

Strategic placement of AEDs can accelerate treatment and save lives, and while no proper training is necessary to initiate care with an AED, even brief training can improve results by laypersons.

How do you think athletes should be screened and where do AEDs come in? Write and let us know.

Kaitlyn Dmyterko

Senior Writer, Cardiovascular Business News

Kdmyterko@cardiovascularbusiness.com