Incidence and etiology of sports-related sudden cardiac death in Denmark--implications for preparticipation screening

Heart Rhythm. 2010 Oct;7(10):1365-71. doi: 10.1016/j.hrthm.2010.05.021. Epub 2010 May 15.


Background: Studies on incidences of sports-related sudden cardiac death (SrSCD) are few and data are needed for the discussion of preparticipation screening for cardiac disease.

Objective: We sought to chart the incidence and etiology of SrSCD in the young in Denmark (population 5.4 million) and to compare this to the incidence of sudden cardiac death (SCD) in the background population.

Methods: All 5,662 death certificates for decedents in the period 2000 to 2006 in the age group 12 to 35 years in Denmark were read independently by 2 physicians to identify cases of SCD. Information from autopsy reports, selected hospital records, and multiple registries was used to identify cases of SCD and SrSCD. SrSCD was defined as SCD occurring during or within 1 hour after exercise in a competitive athlete. The size of the athlete population was estimated from national survey data.

Results: Fifteen (range 0 to 5 per year) cases of SrSCD were found, 8 of which had antecedent symptoms. The incidence rate was 1.21 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.68 to 2.00) per 100,000 athlete person-years. The most common autopsy findings were arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (n = 4), sudden unexplained death (n = 4), and coronary artery disease (n = 2). The incidence of SCD in the general population age 12 to 35 was 3.76 (95% CI: 3.42 to 4.14) per 100,000 person-years.

Conclusion: In Denmark, SrSCD is a rare occurrence and the incidence rate is lower than that of SCD in the general population. This may imply a low value of preparticipation screening of athletes in Denmark.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / epidemiology
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / etiology*
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / pathology
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / prevention & control
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Heart Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Mass Screening*
  • Sports Medicine
  • Sports*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult