Sports can be painful. Football alone may produce more than 1 million injuries per year. But for a handful of athletes the price is even steeper because they die.
Sudden and unexpected death in young athletes who have not sustained any apparent trauma is a special concern of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), Bethesda, Md. Precompetition screening might detect the underlying problems, says Barry J. Maron, MD, a senior investigator at the institute, but it must be based on a knowledge of what has caused such deaths.
So far, Maron told American Heart Association members recently in Dallas, autopsies have been performed on 23 competitive athletes who died during or shortly after participating in strenuous sports. The 20 men and three women ranged in age from 14 to 30 years. Fifteen were white and eight black. Eight played football (two on professional teams), and others played basketball