A study published in the Journal of Athletic Training found that the majority of sudden death cases in USA middle school organised sport occurred in basketball. The study defined sudden death as “a death that occurred either while the athlete was engaged in sport participation or as the result of sport participation (eg, a head impact incurred during American football that led to death in the emergency department).”
Data from the period of 2007-2015 was analysed, and with the focus of the researchers on middle school sport, as sudden death cases at the high school and collegiate level is already well-written upon.
The study found that, in the period studied, a total of 45 sudden death cases were reported in middle school sports in the USA. At the high school and collegiate levels, sudden cardiac death (SCD) comprises 75% of all sport-related deaths, while the study found that most of the deaths in middle school were also cardiac related (out of the 45 total deaths, 34 were cardiac related).
According to the findings of the study, males were more likely to die of sudden death in a sports setting than females. This is true at middle school, high school, and collegiate levels of sport. The study does mention, however, that previous researchers tend to cluster the data on incidences of sudden death in youth aged 6-17 years old who weren’t participating in sport or athletics with those who did. This means that the data may not be entirely accurate.
There were more incidences of sudden death in boys than in girls.
The researchers used a stat they called “athlete-years”, which is essentially one athlete participating in one sport in a calendar year. There were 1.83 deaths per 10 million athlete-years, but in 2015 (the year where there was a total of 11 occurrences, 6 more than the yearly average), it increased to 3.84 deaths per 10 million. The researchers speculate on the reasons as to why this increased rate of sudden death in youth sports is observed, but a solid reason was beyond the scope of the study.
Most of the sudden death cases that were recorded occurred during practice (two thirds) while playing basketball (35.6%).
Sudden death at a gradual increase
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