Sports Injury Forum -Michael DeFranco MD , Guest - Michael LaCorte MD Pediatric Cardiology , Director of Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children's Medical Center -Brooklyn Division.
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Sudden Cardiac Death in Young Athletes Michael DeFranco: Specifically with regards to sudden cardiac death in high school athletes for example, it’s been estimated in terms of the studies I’ve read one and a hundred thousand or one in three hundred thousand, is that accurate? Michael LaCorte: Yes. I mean there was a study done in Minnesota. They have six hundred and fifty thousand athletes, student athletes and three died suddenly. So, that would be about one in two hundred thousand. So, it is a very rare event. Of course when it happens, it’s devastating. It’s devastating to obviously to the youngster and devastating to the family and the school. It’s a very rare event. But in many of the instances, it’s preventable and that’s really the key of what we’re trying to do is figure out how can we identify the youngster at risk. Now, at risk does not mean that that youngster is going to die. I mean the risk maybe one in ten thousand. In other words, in ten thousand athletes, one may have a condition whether at risk of dying suddenly. It doesn’t mean that that person’s going to die suddenly, maybe one out of ten of those will die suddenly but at least you’ve identified that group of youngsters that you need to potentially restrict from athletic endeavors. But it’s not a lot of athletes but the key is to try to identify the ones that may be at risk. Michael DeFranco: This is a condition that’s most common in males more than females and in terms of their type of sports; it’s usually seen in football and basketball players? Michael LaCorte: That’s right. It’s clearly somewhat more common in males, probably a function of the sports they do. In fact, the guru of all these is someone named Barry Maron who’s still writing a lot about sudden deaths and looked a lot of autopsies on athletes who died suddenly. Basically, about ninety percent were male and obviously, we’ll talk about the common causes. But yes it tends to be largely in basketball and football, although, one of the most well known deaths happens to be in a female named Flo Hyman who is a volleyball star who had something called Marfan syndrome and her death really started a lot of the work that’s been done in Marfan syndrome. So, she wasn’t playing football or basketball and she wasn’t a male but she did die suddenly of a disease that affects the heart. Michael DeFranco: You’ve been practicing cardiology for a long time, is there something that you’ve come across in your own practice? Michael LaCorte: Well fortunately, I personally haven’t had an expected death in a patient. However, the way I got involved in doing all these was approximately I would say twenty or twenty five years ago when a high school athlete died while playing football in one of our long island school districts. It raised the question of, “Are there ways of preventing it from happening?” That’s when we started many years ago to screen athletes with electrocardiogram. So, as we talk about it in a few minutes about what do you do, how do you screen athletes. But yes, I’ve had it happen not to my own patients but it’s clearly something that does happen and it seems to happen more frequently than one would think, although, when you realize there’s a couple of million teenagers in United States athletic programs, when you take the small percentage it does add up. But we’re talking about two million youngsters participating in sports; almost all of them are healthy and safe for them to participate.
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