According to a recent survey, male athletes are predisposed to sudden heart death. The number of incidents increases when the victim is of African-American descent.
Throughout time there have been numerous incidents involving young, apparently healthy ethnic athletes that died on the field. A team of researchers investigated the matter and discovered that most of the cases were caused by an underlying heart problem.
Barry Maron, the lead investigator in the study, declared that hypertrophic cardiomyopathy usually goes unnoticed as it rarely displays any symptoms. Moreover, the condition is not visible on an EKG. Only with ultrasounds and exploratory surgery.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a condition of the myocardium, also known as the heart muscle. Individuals that suffer from this illness have an abnormally enlarged and thickened myocardium. Doctors have yet to establish a cause of this disease.
According to the researchers, it can go unnoticed for a lifetime. The ones most at risk are athletes. Due to the nature of their job, the physical effort they are exposed to on a daily basis can weaken the heart, leading to a sudden cardiac arrest.
Dr. Maron’s study shows that approximately 40 percent of male sudden heart death incidents were caused by a latent hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Over 50 percent of the victims were minority males. Only one percent of the recorded cases were minority females.
“We have established that hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is the leading cause of sudden cardiac death in male athletes and is an underappreciated cause of sudden death in male African-American and minority athletes, but is a rare cause of death in female athletes.”
The survey identified over 2,400 sudden deaths in the period between 1980 and 2011. The sudden heart death incidents occurred among professional athletes practicing one out of 29 different sports. The age of the victims varied from 13 to 25.
The team also found that ethnic male athletes were 6.5 times more likely to suffer from a sudden heart death than women. Moreover, it seems that blacks and other minorities are five times more predisposed to suffer from such an incident than their white counterparts.
The most surprising find was that less than five percent of the analyzed athletes who experienced a sudden heart death were white.
The cited study was published in the medical magazine The American Journal of Medicine.
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