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Living the Dream...A Young Athlete's Story of Heart Disease

Young Athletes and Sudden Cardiac Arrest
Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is the leading cause of death in young athletes. Most often, the death occurs during athletic training or competition. You have the power to help save athletes' lives.

In Close the Gap's Telly Award winning video, "Living the Dream," Allen Muse, a wide receiver for Arkansas State University, talks about overcoming a serious heart condition to get back on the football field. Dr. F. Roosevelt Gilliam, Allen's cardiologist and a Close the Gap steering committee member, discusses his case and sudden cardiac arrest.

View "Living the Dream", The Allen Muse Story

What is sudden cardiac arrest?
Sudden cardiac arrest occurs due to electrical problems in the heart, which cause a dangerously fast heart rate. If SCA is not treated immediately, it can lead to sudden cardiac death (SCD).

SCA is different than a heart attack. A heart attack happens when a blockage prevents blood from getting to heart muscle.

The most common cardio-vascular cause of SCD in young athletes is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM).2 HCM is a disease that causes thickening of the heart muscle.

"What is Sudden Cardiac Arrest?" Decisive Magazine: by Eric Taylor, Close the Gap Steering Committee Member

Who is at risk?

  • In the United States, a young competitive athlete dies suddenly every three days.(1)
  • Young athletes are more than twice as likely to experience SCD than young non-athletes.3
  • Most victims are male (90%).(4,5)
  • HCM is the leading cardiovascular cause of SCD (36%).2 More than half of HCM sudden death victims are black athletes (52%).(2,4)
  • The average age when SCD occurs in young athletes is 17.5 years.4
  • The risk of SCD increases with age.(1)
  • More than two thirds of young athletes who die suddenly are basketball and football players (67%).(2)

1.Drezner, Jonathan, et al. Inter-Association Task Force Recommendations on Emergency Preparedness and Management of Sudden Cardiac Arrest in High School and College Athletic Programs: A Consensus Statement. Heart Rhythm Society. 2007;4:549-565

2.Maron, Barry J., et al. Relationship of Race to Sudden Cardiac Death in Competitive Athletes with Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. Journal of the AmericanCollege of Cardiology. 2003;41:974-980.

3.Domenico Corrado, et. al. Trends in Sudden Cardiovascular Death in Young Competitive Athletes After Implementation of a Preparticipation Screening Program. Journal of American Medical Association. 2006;296:1593-1601

4.Maron, Barry J., et al. Profile and Frequency of Sudden Deaths in 1,463 Young Competitive Athletes: From a 26-year U.S. National Registry, 1980-2005. Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation. [poster];2006.

5.Maron, Barry J., et al. Recommendations and Considerations Related to Preparticipation Screening for Cardiovascular Abnormalities in Competitive Athletes: 2007 Update. American Heart Association Journal. 2007;115:1643-1655.

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