LA Kiss tryout at Santa Ana College
Hopeful athletes at the LA Kiss arena football league tryout at Santa Ana College. Photo courtesy of LA Kiss

Middle-aged athletes are at low risk for having a sudden cardiac arrest while playing sports; and those who do have a greater chance of surviving the condition, according to a Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute study.

In the study, published in the medical journal “Circulation,” investigators studied the 1,247 people aged 35-65 from the Portland, Oregon metropolitan area who had a sudden cardiac arrest between 2002 and 2013.

Five percent, or 63 people, had a sudden cardiac arrest during sports activities. Eighty-seven percent of those who had a sudden cardiac arrest while playing sports received cardiopulmonary resuscitation, while 53 percent of patients who had a sudden cardiac arrest while not playing sports received cardiopulmonary resuscitation. The survival rate for those who had a sudden cardiac arrest while exercising was 23 percent, compared to 13 percent for those who were not exercising, according to the study.

Men were seven times more likely than women to have a sports-related sudden cardiac arrest, according to a news release.

“Because there is so much media attention when someone has a sudden cardiac arrest while playing sports, we want to make sure people know that the benefits of exercise far outweigh the risk of having a cardiac arrest,” according to Sumeet S. Chugh, MD. “Even for middle-aged men, who are more susceptible to heart rhythm disturbances, the risk is quite low,” according to Chugh.

Although sudden cardiac arrest and heart attack are often used interchangeably, the terms are not synonymous, according to the news release. Unlike heart attacks (myocardial infarctions), which are typically caused by clogged coronary arteries reducing blood flow to the heart muscle, sudden cardiac arrest is the result of defective electrical activity of the heart, according to the news release.

—Staff and wire reports

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