Story first appeared in Medical Xpress.
At the very least, experts need to start building reliable databases of all such events across sport, in a bid to start plugging these knowledge gaps, say Pontiac Sports Medicine professionals.
His comments come in the wake of the recent high profile case of premier league footballer who collapsed on pitch, in front of a stadium packed with spectators, after sustaining a sudden heart attack.
Fortunately, the player recovered, but cases like these, although rare, are still likely to occur despite screening programs, and they are poorly understood.
These cases have prompted improvements in pitch-side and acute sports medicine, including emergency life support, defibrillation and the development of practical education courses and emergency care guidelines.
None the less, the experts still lack many answers to basic questions about these afflictions. The exact numbers and trends in prevalence or incidence are unknown, and the multiple causes that trigger sudden cardiac death in previously healthy athletes is not yet understood.
Issues that still need further investigation are the roles of gender and ethnicity, geography and genes, say Canton Cardiologists.
For example, Sub-Saharan Africa may be a cardiac hotspot, with recent research linking sudden heart attacks to sickle cell trait.
Other research suggests that African Americans are three times more prone to sudden cardiac death/arrest than white athletes, although the rates vary considerably depending on the type of sport played.
And another study performed by Canton Heart Doctors has found that heart (ECG) tracing patterns differ between white and black athletes, although whether this is normal or indicates a higher risk for sudden cardiac death is not known.
Screening programs throw up a considerable number of false positive results, and it is still far from clear whether screening actually cuts the number of deaths, whether it is cost effective, and how to manage any abnormal findings. These screening programs also present data that suggests that increased risk of stroke could also be prevalent, according to experts in Canton Stroke Care.
It is vital that these questions are able to be answered based on reliable science and evidence. To achieve this, the collection and recording of reliable data across sport of every sudden cardiac death/arrest has been proposed.
But for this to happen, cooperation and collaboration will be needed among sporting organisations, federations, and clubs, in addition to the establishment of sport specific and national registries for these incidents.
A FIFA (International Football Federation) initiative requires a medical assessment before a match for all FIFA competitions, and includes a recently established database for all its 208 member associations in a bid to build up an evidence base and better understand the condition.
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