Harvard Men's Health Watch

Cardiac arrest during sports is rare, and there may be warning signals

Reports that someone thought to be "perfectly healthy" collapsed while playing sports may instill fear in middle-aged men who want to stay physically active. However, a study in Circulation found that sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) during sports activities is uncommon and is often preceded by possible symptoms of heart problems.

Researchers have tracked cases of SCA in Oregon since 2002 in adults ages 35 to 65. As of 2013, only 63 of the 1,247 SCAs they found, or 5%, happened either during or within one hour of engaging in activities such as jogging, bicycling, basketball, golf, or tennis. It occurred more often in men, although it's possible this was because the men were more likely to engage in sports than women.

Many of the SCAs linked to sports were not quite as out-of-the-blue as they may have appeared. A third of victims had reported a possible symptom of heart problems, like chest pain or shortness of breath, in the previous week. More than half had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

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