Cardiac Arrests Occurring During Triathlons Not Rare

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Forty-four percent of the decedents had clinically relevant cardiovascular abnormalities at autopsy, most often atherosclerotic coronary disease or cardiomyopathy.
Forty-four percent of the decedents had clinically relevant cardiovascular abnormalities at autopsy, most often atherosclerotic coronary disease or cardiomyopathy.

HealthDay News — The incidence of deaths or cardiac arrest is 1.74 per 100,000 USA Triathlon participants, according to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Kevin M. Harris, MD, from the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation at Abbot Northwestern Hospital, and colleagues describe death and cardiac arrest among participants in US triathlon races from 1985 to 2016.

The researchers identified 135 sudden deaths, resuscitated cardiac arrests, and trauma-related deaths (mean age of victims, 46.7 ± 12.4 years; 85% male). Most of the sudden deaths and cardiac arrests occurred in the swim segment (90 deaths), and others occurred during bicycling, running, and post-race recovery (7, 15, and 8, respectively). 

During the bike segment, there were 15 trauma-related deaths. Among USA Triathlon participants, the incidence of death or cardiac arrest was 1.74 per 100,000 (2.40 in men and 0.74 in women: P< .001). Risk increased substantially with age among men, and was higher for those aged 60 years and older (18.6 per 100,000). Similar risks of death or cardiac arrest were seen for short, intermediate, and long races (1.61, 1.41, and 1.92 per 100,000 participants, respectively). Forty-four percent of the decedents had clinically relevant cardiovascular abnormalities at autopsy, most often atherosclerotic coronary disease or cardiomyopathy.

"Deaths and cardiac arrests during the triathlon are not rare," the authors write. "Clinically silent cardiovascular disease was present in an unexpected proportion of decedents."

One author disclosed financial ties to USA Triathlon.

Reference

Harris KM, Creswell LL, Haas TS, et al. Death and cardiac arrest in US triathlon participants, 1985 to 2016: a case series [published online September 19, 2017]. Ann Intern Med. doi: 10.7326/M17-0847

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