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Preventing Sudden Death in Athletes: Understanding the Risks and Taking Precautions

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Preventing Sudden Death in Athletes: Understanding the Risks and Taking Precautions

Every year in Spain, approximately 30,000 sudden deaths occur, according to data from the Spanish Society of Cardiology. Sudden death can manifest in different forms, all of which occur without an apparent cause. Miguel Enrique del Valle, president of the Spanish Society of Sports Medicine and professor at the University of Oviedo, described sudden death as an unexpected event due to a natural cause, not traumatic or violent.

One type of sudden death is sudden cardiac death, which involves a sudden, non-traumatic, and unexpected cardiac arrest occurring within about 6 hours after the onset of symptoms. Another type is the sudden death of an athlete, which occurs during a competition or training, or within an hour following sports practice.

The most common cause of unexpected death of an athlete is due to heart disease, often of congenital origin in young individuals or secondary to coronary arteriosclerosis in older athletes. In most cases, sudden death affects individuals with preexisting cardiac anomalies who do not present any symptoms.

Symptoms of sudden death may include chest pain, syncope, dyspnea on exertion, palpitations, loss of consciousness, arterial hypertension, and arrhythmias. Through screening with medical examinations and tests, athletes at risk of sudden death can be detected, especially those with a family history of heart disease.

Various cardiovascular diseases can act as risk factors for sudden death, potentially leading to fatal outcomes. Encouraging moderate physical exercise and knowing the signs of sudden cardiac death are essential in preventing such tragic events. It is important for athletes to undergo regular medical examinations and screenings to detect any underlying cardiac pathologies that may pose a risk.

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Overall, while sudden death cannot always be prevented, identifying risk factors, monitoring symptoms, avoiding risky environments, and promoting CPR and AED use are crucial steps in mitigating the risk of sudden death in athletes. Automatic external defibrillators should be readily available in sports centers and stadiums to ensure immediate response in case of emergencies.

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