Intended for healthcare professionals


Preventing sudden cardiac death in athletes

BMJ 2016; 353 doi: (Published 20 April 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;353:i1270
  1. Christopher Semsarian, professor1 23,
  2. Jodie Ingles, researcher1 2 3
  1. 1Agnes Ginges Centre for Molecular Cardiology, Centenary Institute, Newtown, Australia
  2. 2Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney, Sydney
  3. 3Department of Cardiology, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney, NSW, Australia
  1. Correspondence to: C Semsarian c.semsarian{at}

The role of screening remains uncertain, to the detriment of athletes worldwide

Sudden cardiac death is a tragic complication of several underlying heart diseases.1 In young people (<35 years), particularly athletes, genetic heart diseases such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy are a major cause.2 Few question the importance of developing effective measures to help prevent sudden cardiac deaths in athletes worldwide, but much controversy exists about whether preparticipation screening of athletes is effective in reducing risk .

In the linked article Van Brabandt and colleagues present a detailed literature review of the benefits and harms of preparticipation screening in young athletes.3 They conclude that screening should be abandoned for several reasons, including the rarity of sudden cardiac deaths in this group, the high rate of false positive results, and a lack of robust evidence that it works.

The authors discuss the considerations at the core of this a debate, which is often emotional and passionate, to the detriment of athletes who need an objective and rigorous evaluation of the available data on the benefits and harms. …

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