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Deaths in College Athletes Can Occur Despite Rapid Aid

Analysis of nine cases show that about half had a structural heart defect

THURSDAY, June 22 (HealthDay News) -- An analysis of nine college athletes who experienced sudden cardiac arrest suggests about half had structural heart defects and most died despite rapid cardiopulmonary resuscitation and use of a defibrillator, according to a study in the July issue of Heart Rhythm.

Jonathan A. Drezner, M.D., of the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, and Kenneth J. Rogers, Ph.D., of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia, examined the cases of nine college athletes who experienced sudden cardiac arrest, eight of whom died. The researchers analyzed the cases through a detailed questionnaire sent to the certified athletic trainer involved in the resuscitation and direct phone follow-up.

All of the collapses were witnessed and cardiopulmonary resuscitation was initiated within one minute. A shock was applied using an automated external defibrillator in seven cases within an average of about three minutes after the collapse, although the times were significantly reduced if applied by an athletic trainer rather than emergency medical services. Five of the deaths were attributed to underlying hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, two to commotio cordis, and one to myocardial infarction. The cause of sudden cardiac arrest was unclear in the survivor, according to the study.

"Despite witnessed collapse, immediate cardiopulmonary resuscitation and prompt automated external defibrillator use in most cases, early defibrillation showed limited success, and survival was less than expected in this small cohort of intercollegiate athletes," Drezner and Rogers conclude.

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