Here comes the marathon season, which bring you news that reports athletes collapsing from sudden cardiac arrest. Although quite rare, these types of events often get attention.
A new review in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) has looked at recent evidence to guide clinicians on how to prevent and manage sudden cardiac arrest in competitive athletes.
Sudden cardiac arrest is quite rare. It is usually the first sign of heart disease in young athletes. In fact, one study found that nearly 30 percent of athletes had symptoms of underlying heart disease before an arrest.
It is not easy to prevent or predict sudden cardiac arrest, and screening programs are more challenging with no certain benefits.
According to the CMAJ, doctors should routinely ask athletes whether they feel dizzy, breathless or experience chest pains during or after workouts. Physicians should also ask about their family history to determine whether there may be an inherited condition.
In athletes, survival chances after sudden cardiac arrest are quite high when physicians use automated external defibrillators. Dr. Paul Dorian, a cardiologist at St. Michael’s Hospital and the University of Toronto, said, “Establishing effective resuscitation protocols and increasing the availability of automated external defibrillators in settings where competitive sport is undertaken are the most effective strategies in helping reduce the incidence of sudden cardiac death among athletes.”