While sudden cardiac death in athletes has become a popular topic in the news, it is not the only cause for sudden death in athletes. Sudden cardiac deaths in NCAA athletes account for 16% of deaths, which is a small number in reality. Due to the uncertainty and the nature of sudden cardiac deaths, we are left with a lot of unanswered questions. This is why when a death caused by a sudden cardiac event occurs; the media tends to be quick to report about it.
The most common causes of sudden cardiac death include genetic/congenital anomaly, myocarditis, commotio cordis, and coronary artery disease. The most prevalent cardiac condition in the United States is reported to be Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM) affects 1/500 people and is the thickening of the myocardium causing stiffness in the left ventricle, mitral valve changes and cellular disorganization. Signs and symptoms of HCM include chest pain with activity, shortness of breath, fatigue with exertion, syncope (fainting), chest palpitations and sudden death.