Genetic Heart Condition Common Cause of Sudden Death in Sports

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Genetic Heart Condition Common Cause of Sudden Death in Sports
Genetic Heart Condition Common Cause of Sudden Death in Sports

WEDNESDAY, June 29, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- About one-third of sudden deaths are caused by hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, according to research published recently in The American Journal of Medicine.

The study identified 2,406 sudden deaths between 1980 and 2011. The deaths occurred among competitive athletes while engaged in 29 different sports. The athletes were between the ages of 13 and 25. Of those deaths, 842 were cardiovascular related. Thirty-nine percent of sudden deaths in males were caused by hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. More than 50 percent of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy occurred in minority males. Just 1 percent of these cases were found in minority females.

The researchers also found that male athletes were 6.5 times more likely to die from sudden death than females. Blacks and other minorities had mortality rates nearly five times higher from sudden death than whites. Sudden death was three times more likely among minority male and female basketball players than white players. Less than 5 percent of athletes who died had structurally normal hearts. Certain cardiovascular issues were more common in female athletes who died suddenly. These included congenital coronary artery anomalies, arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy, and clinically diagnosed long-QT syndrome.

"We have established that hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is the leading cause of sudden cardiac death in male athletes and is an underappreciated cause of sudden death in male African-American and minority athletes, but is a rare cause of death in female athletes," lead investigator Barry Maron, M.D., of the Tufts Medical Center in Boston, said in a journal news release. The new findings highlight the potential value of the American Heart Association/American College of Cardiology's recommendations to screen minorities and others for heart conditions before participation in athletics, Maron said.

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