Background: Although such data are available for young competitive athletes, the prevalence, characteristics, and outcome of sports-related sudden death have not been assessed previously in the general population.
Methods and results: A prospective and comprehensive national survey was performed throughout France from 2005 to 2010, involving subjects 10 to 75 years of age. Case detection for sports-related sudden death, including resuscitated cardiac arrest, was undertaken via national ambulance service reporting and Web-based screening of media releases. The overall burden of sports-related sudden death was 4.6 cases per million population per year, with 6% of cases occurring in young competitive athletes. Sensitivity analyses used to address suspected underreporting demonstrated an incidence ranging from 5 to 17 new cases per million population per year. More than 90% of cases occurred in the context of recreational sports. The age of subjects was relatively young (mean ± SD 46 ± 15 years), with a predominance of men (95%). Although most cases were witnessed (93%), bystander cardiopulmonary resuscitation was only commenced in 30.7% of cases. Bystander cardiopulmonary resuscitation (odds ratio 3.73, 95% confidence interval 2.19 to 6.39, P<0.0001) and initial use of cardiac defibrillation (odds ratio 3.71, 95% confidence interval 2.07 to 6.64, P<0.0001) were the strongest independent predictors for survival to hospital discharge (15.7%, 95% confidence interval 13.2% to 18.2%).
Conclusions: Sports-related sudden death in the general population is considerably more common than previously suspected. Most cases are witnessed, yet bystander cardiopulmonary resuscitation was only initiated in one third of cases. Given the often predictable setting of sports-related sudden death and that prompt interventions were significantly associated with improved survival, these data have implications for health services planning.