Answers to Athletes and Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Premier Health providers and athletic trainers answer frequently asked questions about sudden cardiac arrest.

What started the debate about the need for EKGs?

Dr. Sean Convery discusses the how data supports the use of EKG testing for high school and college athletes. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.


The concerns raised about sudden cardiac death in athletes have been going on for a number of years. Now we have more accurate data. We have more numbers. We have studies dealing with thousands of athletes — looking at hundreds of sudden cardiac deaths — in high school and college. Now we see that those numbers are troubling in certain populations. The most troubling would be in the collegiate African-American basketball player, who has the most risk for this sudden cardiac death.

Depending on what study you look at, a sudden cardiac death occurs once in every 3,000 to 5,000 athletic years. That sounds like a lot of years, but it's not when you look at how many people are playing. When you see numbers like that you realize that you have to do something at all the levels. Now that we have more accurate reporting and databases that can easily be shared, we can crunch all those numbers and say, "Hey, there's an issue here." Before, it was just a few reports here and there, anecdotal evidence. No one really wanted to pull the trigger on that. But now I think the numbers are a little overwhelming.

Chelsea L. Gilliam, APRN-CNP, AGACNP-BC

Piqua Family Practice

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Source: Michael W. Barrow, MD, Samaritan North Family Physicians; American Heart Association; National Institutes of Health; Nik Berger, MS, AT, ATC, Premier Health Sports Medicine – Miami Valley Hospital South; Jeffrey James, DO, Premier Orthopedics; Sean Convery, MD, Premier Orthopedics; Jeffrey Rayborn, MD, Premier Orthopedics