Author + information
- Received November 13, 2013
- Revision received January 15, 2014
- Accepted January 20, 2014
- Published online April 29, 2014.
- Barry J. Maron, MD∗ (, )
- Tammy S. Haas, RN,
- Caleb J. Murphy, BS,
- Aneesha Ahluwalia and
- Stephanie Rutten-Ramos, DVM, PhD
- ↵∗Reprint requests and correspondence:
Dr. Barry J. Maron, Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Center, Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation, 920 East 28th Street, Suite 620, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55407.
Objectives The goal of this study was to reliably define the incidence and causes of sudden death in college student-athletes.
Background The frequency with which cardiovascular-related sudden death occurs in competitive athletes importantly influences considerations for pre-participation screening strategies.
Methods We assessed databases (including autopsy reports) from both the U.S. National Registry of Sudden Death in Athletes and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (2002 to 2011).
Results Over the 10-year study period, 182 sudden deaths occurred (age 20 ± 1.7 years; 85% male; 64% white), 52 resulting from suicide (n = 31) or drug abuse (n = 21) and 64 probably or likely attributable to cardiovascular causes (6/year). Of these 64 athletes, 47 had a confirmed post-mortem diagnosis; the most common were hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in 21 and congenital coronary anomalies in 8. The 4,052,369 athlete participations (in 30 sports over 10 years) incurred mortality risks as follows: suicide and drugs combined, 1.3/100,000 athlete participation-years (5 deaths/year); and documented cardiovascular disease, 1.2/100,000 athlete participation-years (4 deaths/year). Notably, cardiovascular deaths were 5-fold more common in African-American athletes than in white athletes (3.8 vs. 0.7/100,000 athlete participation-years; p < 0.01) but did not differ from the general population of the same age and race (p = 0.6).
Conclusions In college student-athletes, risk of sudden death due to cardiovascular disease is relatively low, with mortality rates similar to suicide and drug abuse, but less than expected in the general population, although highest in African-American athletes. A substantial minority of confirmed cardiovascular deaths would not likely have been reliably detected by pre-participation screening with 12-lead electrocardiograms.
The authors have reported that they have no relationships relevant to the contents of this paper to disclose.
- Received November 13, 2013.
- Revision received January 15, 2014.
- Accepted January 20, 2014.
- American College of Cardiology Foundation