Incidence and Causes of Sudden Cardiac Death in Athletes

Clin Sports Med. 2022 Jul;41(3):369-388. doi: 10.1016/j.csm.2022.02.002.


Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is the leading cause of medical death in athletes; however, many studies are significantly flawed making an accurate estimation of risk difficult. Incidence studies need to have accurate case ascertainment, a defined study population, and should be stratified by both sex and age. The risk of SCA/d in college-aged males is 1 in 35,000 person-years, black males 1 in 18,000 person-years, and higher-risk sports include men's basketball, men's soccer, and American football. Inherited cardiomyopathies and electrical conditions account for ∼ 2/3 of off SCA/d and can be detected with an ECG. More research is needed to provide more granular estimates.

Keywords: Athlete; Incidence; Sudden cardiac arrest; Sudden cardiac death.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Athletes
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac* / epidemiology
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac* / etiology
  • Football*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Soccer*
  • Universities
  • Young Adult