Sudden death in competitive athletes

Clin Sports Med. 2008 Jan;27(1):153-81, ix. doi: 10.1016/j.csm.2007.09.004.


Sudden death in athletes is an extremely rare event yet no less tragic for its infrequency. Up to 90% of these deaths are due to underlying cardiovascular diseases and therefore categorized as sudden cardiac death (SCD). The causes of SCD among athletes are strongly correlated with age. In young athletes (<35 years), the leading causes are congenital cardiac diseases, particularly hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy, and congenital coronary artery anomalies. By contrast, most of deaths in older athletes (<35 years) are due to coronary artery disease. This review focuses on the cardiac causes of SCD and provides a brief summary of the principal noncardiac causes. Current pre-participation screening strategies are also discussed, with particular emphasis on the Italian experience.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Death, Sudden / epidemiology
  • Death, Sudden / etiology*
  • Death, Sudden / prevention & control
  • Heart Diseases / complications
  • Heart Diseases / diagnosis
  • Heart Diseases / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening
  • Sports*