The Mystery of Sudden Death Syndrome


When Fabrice Muamba collapsed when playing for Bolton against Tottenham Hotspur the worlds media stopped and stared. On March 17th of this year his life changed and so did the views of many youth athletes looking towards a summer of sport. With the London Olympics and England in European Football action the summer promises to take Britons into the parks and and onto the jogging tracks.

With an alarming 26% of British citizens male and female classified as obese according to a 2012 NHS report, one would think this summer of sport would be a welcome one. However with such focus on extreme exercise comes the risk of cardiac arrest.

The uptake in marathons and half marathons in the UK has been rapid in the past half decade with 1.8 million amateur athletes currently in the UK and according to the United Kingdom Athletics Association this is set to rise further.

I spoke with Professor Sanjay Sharma of St Georges Hospital who is also the Medical Director of the London Marathon. He warned of the dangers of not training effectively and preparing the body for such extreme strain. He said the amateur athletes most in danger are the ones who are not running around in rabbit costumes but the young men especially who push themselves from the four to the three hour mark. With the issue of Cardiac problems being brought into the mainstream media regarding Muamba he said there are times when electric imbalances in the heart due to genetic disorders can affect what seem like perfectly fit and healthy sports men and women.

Professor Sharma’s words proved accurate when looking at the case of Sean Rodgers a triathlete from the Doncaster region who has died twice. With out any prior warning or any affects and in perfect health, his heart stopped for fifteen minutes and he woke up a week later after entering a coma. The second time his defibrillator kicked in after 37 seconds and said that the device saved his life and will aid Muamba’s heart moving forward.

Very little is still known of these sudden and unexpected heart attacks that affect 1 in 50,000 Britons every year and the C-R-Y institute in London and Professor Sharma are working hard to find a solution knowing it will be some time before the issue of Sudden Death Syndrome is fully understood.

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