|The little known killer of athletes|
|Written by Daily Vidette Editorial Board|
|Wednesday, 16 September 2009 22:35|
With less than a month away from the Chicago Marathon, where somewhere around 45,000 runners will run the 26.2 miles around the Windy City, comes the unfortunate reminder of the death of marathon runner, Chad Schieber, that occurred two years ago.
In Schieber’s case, he had a mitral valve prolapse. This kind of horrible death from heart failure happens often. Sudden cardiac death kills about 1 in 15,000 to 1 in 50,000 people a year. What’s ironic is that the victims of these deaths are usually at their prime fitness levels.
Doctors have known for some time that there is an increased health risk for those who are considered elite athletes, so why is it still occurring? And why is it these super-fit individuals are at a greater risk of abruptly dropping dead than the average person?
We have seen it happen to professional athletes like Kory Stringer of the Minnesota Vikings, or Reggie Lewis of the Boston Celtics.
We even see it in younger high school athletes like 16-year old football player Zachary Schrah, from Dallas who died while lifting weights in practice, and Roosevelt Jones, of Naperville, Ill. who was 17 when he died while shooting hoops during a pickup game at the high school. It has been occurring in fit individuals of all ages.
One possible cause is abrupt-onset ventricular tachycardia or fibrillation. This is when the bottom chambers of the heart stop beating and flutter, needing electrical shock to get the heart back to normal.
Mostly though, individuals will die from a thickening of the heart due to the fact that their heart has been working so hard because of aerobic activity. In 80 percent of these cases, people are asymptomatic and die during or shortly after exercise.
The question is then, is a high school physical enough for young athletes, marathon runners and professional athletes? It makes us wonder if these individuals even know their risk when they go to their sports events.
Athletes are taught to persevere through the pain to succeed. But where does the line get drawn? Coaches, athletes and all fit individuals need to be educated on proper screening for Sudden Cardiac Death. We need to prevent the healthy from dying young.