Sports and Sudden Cardiac Arrest
Sudden cardiac death is the swift and unexpected ending of all heart activity. Breathing and blood flow stop right away. Within seconds, the person becomes unconscious and dies. Athletes in outdoor sports, who are less likely to encounter flying baseballs, face a much lower risk of commotio cordis, which is an extremely rare occurrence in any population.
What can cause sudden cardiac death in young people?
Sudden cardiac death is often caused by faulty electrical signaling in the heart. A very fast heartbeat causes the lower heart chambers (ventricles) to quiver uselessly instead of pumping blood. This irregular heart rhythm is called ventricular fibrillation.
Any condition that puts a strain on the heart or damages heart tissue can increase the risk of sudden death. Some conditions that can lead to sudden cardiac death in young people are:
- Thickened heart muscle (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy). The most common cause of sudden cardiac death in young people is this genetic condition that causes the heart muscle to grow too thick. The thickening makes it hard for the heart to pump blood and can cause fast heartbeats.
- Heart rhythm disorders. Long QT syndrome is a heart rhythm condition that can cause fast, chaotic heartbeats. It's linked to unexplained fainting and sudden death, especially in young people. Long QT syndrome may be present at birth (congenital long QT syndrome) or caused by an underlying medical condition or medication (acquired long QT syndrome).
Other heart rhythm disorders that can cause sudden cardiac death include Brugada syndrome and Wolfe-Parkinson-White syndrome.
- Blunt chest injury. A hard hit to the chest that causes sudden cardiac death is called commotio cordis. Commotio cordis may occur in athletes who are hit hard in the chest by sports equipment or by another player. This condition doesn't damage the heart muscle. Instead, it changes the heart's electrical signaling. The blow to the chest can trigger ventricular fibrillation if it strikes at a specific time in the signaling cycle.
- Heart structure problem present at birth (congenital heart defect). Some people are born with changes in the heart and blood vessels that can reduce blood flow and lead to sudden cardiac death.
Being active has its benefits to health.
However, taking care of your body is just as important. Heart conditions, when left alone, can often pose dangerous risks. If you are someone who’s actively into sports or thinking about taking on a new intensive sport, do consider speaking to your doctor and even undergoing a heart screening to assess your health and physical condition for the activity. Heart disease is no longer a disease of the elderly, young people like us today are also prone to heart disease. To avoid that, let's immediately control your heart health with RSU Hermina Kemayoran. Both routine heart care to post-heart attack care.