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How common is sudden cardiac death in young athletes?

Sudden cardiac death in young athletes is very rare. The estimated yearly rate varies from one country to another, however. In the United States, it is estimated that 1 out of 200,000 to 1 out of 100,000 high school athletes dies suddenly while participating in sports. By comparison, in Italy the rate of sudden death among athletes is estimated to be about 3 in 100,000, while in Norway the rate is estimated to be just under 1 in 100,000.

The differences in rates of sudden death may be due to differences in the mix of ages or genders in the groups studied, or it may reflect population-wide differences in the genetic make-up of the athletes.

Participation in sports does seem to increase the risk of sudden death, however small. For example, a study from Italy found that teens and young adults who play sports were nearly three times as likely to die suddenly when compared to people of a similar age who did not play sports.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.