In the 42nd minute of a match at the 2020 European Championships in Copenhagen, 29-year-old Danish footballer Christian Eriksen fell to the ground after receiving a throw.
As medical staff rushed to the field to administer defibrillation, teammates gathered around to keep Eriksen out of sight of nearly 14,000 fans in attendance.
Ambulances probably saved Eriksen’s life.
Sudden cardiac arrest is not unique to football. Even though he is
Read on as we explore why athletes develop cardiac arrest and what they can do to reduce risk.
It is rare for athletes to develop cardiac arrest. Congenital heart disease or heart disease present from birth are
Researchers believe that
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM): thickening of the walls of the left ventricle. HCM is thought to be the most common cause of sudden cardiac death in athletes and affects about
1 in 500people from the general population.
- Abnormal origin of the coronary artery: improper placement of one of the coronary arteries that supply the heart with blood.
There is some debate about whether HCM is indeed the most common cause.
Researchers found definitive evidence for HCM in only 8 percent of cases, compared with 30 to 40 percent in previous studies.
Other heart abnormalities that can contribute to sudden cardiac death include:
Advanced cardiomyopathy and Brugada syndrome can also be acquired conditions.
Acquired conditions are those that develop throughout your life.
Other acquired conditions that can lead to cardiac arrest include:
Estimates of how often athletes experience sudden cardiac arrest vary depending on the athlete’s definition and whether the studies include non-sporting cardiac events. They vary everywhere from
They identified 74 cases of sudden cardiac arrest with survival and 105 that led to death. More than 80 percent of the people are men, and the average age was
Cardiac arrest in sports
How best to prevent sudden cardiac arrest in athletes is still a question
Researchers continue to discuss the use of electrocardiogram (ECG) screening, as is being done in some countries. An ECG is a device that measures the activity of your heart.
In Italy, the most common cause of sudden cardiac death in athletes is
Researchers continue to explore the potential usefulness of
A balanced diet can help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, especially in older athletes. Foods that reduce the risk of heart disease are also likely to support athletic performance and overall health.
Advantages of having a sports training and defibrillator on site
Having a certified athletic trainer and defibrillator on site is associated with a much higher chance of surviving a sudden cardiac arrest.
Careful evaluation by a medical professional is required before you can return to the sport. Research of
In some cases, a safe return may not be possible. Your team or institution may also disqualify you due to concerns about responsibility.
Eriksen returned to football 8 months after his sudden cardiac arrest. His doctors installed an implantable cardioverter defibrillator. However, the Italian medical authorities banned him from playing in Italy with his club team Inter Milan, which forced him to sign with Brentford in the UK Premier League.
The most common cause of sudden cardiac death in young athletes is congenital heart disease. In older athletes, it is a coronary artery disease.
Sudden cardiac death is rare in athletes and there is still debate about how best to investigate risk factors.
If you have a heart problem, you can talk to your doctor about whether it is safe for you to exercise and whether you need to have additional tests.