Healthwatch

Sudden cardiac arrest in young athletes

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Young athletes excelling in their sport are dropping dead from sudden cardiac arrest.

Kevin Bondar can't ever remember a time when he wasn't swinging a tennis racquet. 

He says, "I grew up in a tennis family, my dad and mom actually met on the tennis court." 

At 13, Bondar started having chest pain when he played. Doctors found out tissue in his heart was too thick.

Bondar adds, "I was scared after that appointment." 

Officially known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, it's the most common cause of sudden cardiac death in young athletes. 

Dr. Robert J. Myerburg, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, explains, "Fifty percent of sudden cardiac deaths are first cardiac events, meaning the patient did not know they had heart disease. Many of the athletes who die suddenly have underlying causes that are genetic in nature."

Dr. Myerburg opened a clinic to spot any heart defects that may be lurking in college athletes. 

Dr. Myerburg continues, "One is screening, that's the EKG, looking for those kids that we had no idea that there might be something wrong." 

They also follow young people who know they have heart problems as well as kids who start having problems when they're working out, such as Bondar

Dr. Myerburg says, "Talking about risk versus benefit, this is the risk you're taking, do you want to take the risk?" 

Kevin's fear that he'd never be able to play tennis again never happened. After being treated with beta blockers, he continued his collegiate varsity career. 

Bondar says, "I trust the care that I'm under, I trust the medication that I'm on, and I know my limits at this point. I think the screening might not bring you the results that you want to hear but results that you need to hear." 

For their safety now and for the rest of their lives. Dr. Myerburg says more college athletes are being screened now but there is a push for more screening in high schools. 


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