We all know what we think of when we hear of a sudden death in a young athlete…
Dr. Cooper shared an article on “Sports-Related Sudden Death in the General Population” and a slide within it on how much Cardiovascular Sudden Death is unexplained. 78% of Sudden Death is unexplained! (link contains full article)
The study in the paper, was conducted in France. It revealed a much higher prevalence of sports related Sudden Death in the general population than previously suspected (estimated at approximately 4250 cases in the United States or 800 cases in France each year in the 10 to 75 year old age group), which they certainly viewed as an underestimate. They also noted a striking male predominance in sports-related Sudden Death.
In France, autopsy rates are very low and are performed at the discretion of the certifying physician rather than mandated by law. The results of their study among young competitive athletes, including the rate of cases without precise diagnosis, are consistent with the study of the largest cohort to date performed by Maron and colleagues in the United States.
On the other hand, the U.S. study offered a different view from the general population with a majority of cases considered ischemic cardiovascular events but that ultimately remained without a precise diagnosis. Further efforts for better identification of cause of death, including postmortem molecular analysis, are crucial in this context, in which early diagnosis of familial cardiomyopathy or channelopathy may be vital for relatives.
Dr. Cooper wonders that perhaps a solution would be to legislate cardiac autopsies in unexplained sudden death unless the family refuses. Think about addressing this with your local legislators.