How many times do we see this same terminology start out the news article describing the tragic loss of a young athlete? It is all too familiar. It is also all too frustrating for medical professionals who know the truth on how and why these tragedies occur. In the case of Patrick Awosogba, 18 year old Rutgers student who collapsed and died during a game of pick up basketball, it is believed that he may have died from an undetected heart condition known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM).
HCM is the leading cause of sudden cardiac arrest in the young while playing sports. While we won’t know for sure about Patrick until the autopsy is performed, we do know that research shows about 1 in 500 people will develop HCM. While this may seem very rare, consider this… there were 8.5million student athletes in the United States in the year 2014. Some simple math tells us that there were also 17,000 otherwise healthy student athletes at very real risk of sudden cardiac arrest and death. To me, it is unacceptable to roll the dice on the lives of that many futures of promising young students. If we consider the rest of our young, not official student athletes, but still exercising and exerting themselves, the numbers at risk become staggering.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy develops mostly during the adolescent years into early adulthood. It is crucial to have the hearts of young athletes checked during this time period. One day proper heart screening WILL BE STANDARD in the US, until that day please have your sons and daughters hearts checked out by an organization that offers comprehensive heart screenings that include an EKG and possible echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart). These simple, painless exams will find a hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, and possibly save the life of your loved one.
P.S. Using the phrase “otherwise healthy” to describe someone that had a deadly heart condition, albeit undetected, is akin to saying the Titanic had a great trip across the ocean, except for that one undetected iceberg… the simple fact is the heart condition was there, and it was easier to find and avoid than the most infamous iceberg of all time.