NEW YORK —
"Although physical activity is the best way to promote cardiovascular health, exercise can also trigger an acute cardiac event leading to death," Mosterd said. "These dramatic and often high-profile events, for example in soccer players, invariably lead to concerns and cast a shadow over the overwhelmingly positive effects of regular exercise."
Fabrice Muamba, then a midfielder for the Bolton Wanderers soccer team, survived a cardiac arrest after collapsing during a game on March 17. His heart had stopped for more than an hour and he spent a month in the hospital. The 24-year-old retired this month.
Muamba still experiences abnormal heart rhythms, Sanjay Sharma, a sports cardiologist and consultant to Tottenham Hotspur, which played the Bolton team the day the footballer collapsed, said during the conference Sunday. Sudden cardiac death in athletes is rare, occurring in about one in 50,000 athletes, Sharma said. There are often no symptoms and many non- professional athletes aren't screened, he said.
"Between one in 250 and one in 500 athletes are walking around today harboring a condition that could potentially kill them," Sharma said.
Athletes, particularly those of African descent, can experience an abnormal thickening of heart muscle which can cause an irregular heart rhythm and lead to sudden death, John Harold, president-elect of the American College of Cardiology, said in an interview in Munich. The cause can be physiological or genetic, and athletes should be screened for it, he said.
"You shouldn't have soccer players collapsing on the field," Harold said. "Screening should happen a lot earlier."