Increasing numbers of young people participate in outdoor activities, including strenuous competitive athletics. In so doing, they subject their bodies to stresses that are more intense and prolonged than those presented by a largely sedentary life. Every story of a sudden death in a young person is a tragedy, and usually accompanied by commentary pondering the role and utility of pre-activity screening. Could the death have been prevented? What was the physiological condition of the deceased? Could the collapse, often attributed to a heart problem, have been predicted? Was there an examination or evaluation that might have indicated that the deceased was at greater risk, or should have been held out of the activity? These are all important questions, with no simple answers.
Sudden collapse and cardiac arrest in a young person seems wrong. It shouldn’t happen. It is a parent’s worst nightmare. Similar horrors occur on the freeway when a teenage driver is killed, or at the beach when a surfer is tossed in a monster wave and drowned. We know a great deal about injury prevention; much of our teaching and experience points to errors in judgment. But the situation is different when the seemingly healthy slumps to the ground without a pulse. That person has been taken by surprise in a cruel act of fate.
Sometimes we learn that the victim had Read more »