Preventing cardiac deaths in US: what about young non-athletes?

Preventing sudden cardiac deaths in young athletes is grabbing headlines as state legislatures and the NCAA tackle the issue with new urgency. But a big group of people is missing from the growing debate: young people who don’t participate in sports, and who die from cardiac arrest in numbers far higher than athletes. One study estimated about 66 young athletes ages 13 to 25 die from cardiac arrest each year, while other research suggests eight times as many non-athletes are also dying. “Exercise increases the risk of sudden cardiac death if you have an underlying heart abnormality, whether you’re an athlete or not,” said Paul D. Thompson, M.D., chief of cardiology at Hartford Hospital in Connecticut. More exercise means more risk, especially for the much more active competitive athletes, he said. Mentioning sudden cardiac arrest and young people may instantly trigger thoughts of the local high school athlete who died or national stars like Hank Gathers and Reggie Lewis, both of whom died on the basketball court. These shocking and often very public deaths are covered by the media and have given society the impression that such events are limited to athletes, Thompson said.



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