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Editor's letter: Preventing Sudden Cardiac Death in sport

Every year, sports people young and old die from cardiac arrest, either through Sudden Cardiac Death or heart attack. More can – and must – be done to prevent these tragedies

by Liz Terry, Leisure Media | Published in Sports Management Sep Oct 2017 issue 133

Few things are more shocking than sudden cardiac death (SCD) in sport. It’s counter-intuitive that fit, healthy people should suddenly suffer cardiac arrest and when it happens, it’s traumatising for everyone.

An academic review in 2014 found that the incidence of Sudden Cardiac Death in athletes ranged from 1 in 40,000 to 1 in 80,000 athletes per year, meaning this is a significant issue for all involved with sports facility provision, coaching and policy.

As the number of people taking part in sport and activity increases, so the number of SCDs will increase in proportion, meaning all providers of sport and physical activity need to be aware, trained and equipped to deal with the challenge, should it arise.

In this issue, we examine what can be done to prevent these kinds of tragedies in our Ask an Expert panel on page 34. There’s already a wealth of knowledge available out there and campaigns are running to equip sports clubs and facilities with defibrillators and other medical equipment and to ensure people are confident to use them.

But more can be done. We’d like to see mandatory defibrillators in all facilities where activity takes place, be it a sports centre, sports club or school hall, or a trampoline park or gym. Only then will we be giving all those who suffer SCD a fighting chance of survival.

In addition to providing defibrillators for sport, a further opportunity exists to save lives by widening the net and offering cardiac health screening services in sports clubs and facilities to other people involved with sport – parents and siblings of competitors, spectators, coaches, veterans and volunteers.

Some of them will be susceptible to SCD or other cardiac events without being aware and sports facilities are the ideal place to offer these kinds of screening services on a community outreach basis.

You only have to visit a typical sports club on a weekend morning to observe people standing on the sidelines who are prime candidates for a heart attack, but who would never think to “bother” the doctor to get a check-up. Offering them the chance to get screened would catch serious health problems before they became critical and would definitely save lives.

Sport-related facilities are the perfect place to locate these types of screening services and it would be a very worthy, effective and synergistic addition to our work to improve the health and wellbeing of the nation and to prevent needless tragedies.

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