Sudden cardiac death in the older athlete

J Am Coll Cardiol. 2015 Feb 10;65(5):493-502. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2014.10.064.


The overwhelming majority of sports-related sudden deaths occur among those older than 35 years of age. Because increasing numbers of older people are participating in organized endurance and competitive sporting events, the incidence of sports-related sudden death in older adults is expected to rise. Older athletes will approach clinical cardiologists for advice regarding their fitness for participation. It is important to recognize both that strenuous exercise is associated with a transient elevation in risk of sudden cardiac death and that appropriate training substantially reduces this risk. The approach to pre-participation screening for risk of sudden death in the older athlete is a complex issue and at present is largely focused on identifying inducible ischemia due to significant coronary disease. In this brief review, we summarize the current state of knowledge in this area with respect to epidemiology, mechanisms, and approaches to risk stratification, as viewed from the perspective of the consulting clinical cardiologist.

Keywords: athletics; endurance; exercise; risk stratification.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / pathology
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Athletes*
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / epidemiology*
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / pathology
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / prevention & control
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors
  • Sports / physiology*
  • Sports / trends