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February 1991

Sudden Cardiac Death in Young Athletes: A Review

Author Affiliations

From the Section of Pediatric Cardiology, Department of Pediatrics, The Medical College of Georgia, Augusta (Drs McCaffrey and Strong), and the Division of Pediatric Cardiology, Naval Hospital Portsmouth (Va) (Dr Braden).

Am J Dis Child. 1991;145(2):177-183. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1991.02160020069020

Death on the court: Loyola Marymount's Hank Gathers was at the top one minute, the next, he collapsed and lay dying as his mother stood mournfully by him." This was the lead story in the March 12, 1990, issue of Sports Illustrated (pp 14-17). USA Today (March 6,1990:1A) carried the story of Hank Gathers' death for 4 days, including the front-page headline, "Athletes at risk: many put health, even life on the line to play." The tragic death of a national sports celebrity gaining front-page coverage is not unusual. Such events hold a morbid fascination and create undue fear among parents, coaches, community leaders, and physicians involved in the care of young athletes. This review will attempt to place sudden cardiac death in a previously asymptomatic young athlete in perspective while providing recommendations for identifying the athlete who may be at risk.

Sudden unexpected death (SUD) has been defined as

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