Background: Sixteen cases of sudden unexpected cardiac death, 15 males and one female, are known to have occurred among young Swedish orienteers from 1979 to 1992, of which seven cases occurred between 1989 and 1992. This is considered to be indicative of an increased death rate.
Results: Histopathological evaluation showed myocarditis in a higher than expected proportion of cases. In one such case, which we studied before the sudden unexpected death occurred, the victim had suffered a Chlamydia pneumoniae infection verified by serology, and a nucleotide sequence was found in the heart and lung by means of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) that hybridized with a probe specific for that organism. Male Swedish orienteers do not, however, seem to have an increased rate of exposure to this agent. No further sudden unexpected deaths among young orienteers have occurred over the past 3.5 years. At the beginning of that period, attempts were made to modify training habits and attitudes.