New research by the Korey Stringer Institute (KSI) and the University of Connecticut revealed the most common cause of sudden death in American youth sports for athletes aged 6-17 years.
According to a press release by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, which published the first-of-its-kind study in its Journal of Athletic Training, the majority of sudden deaths among youth athletes were cardiac-related and took place during practices within organized middle school sports.
The research looked at data from 2007-2015, where there were 45 cases of sudden deaths reported in American youth sports. It found that sudden cardiac death accounted for 76 percent of those deaths. The researchers found that basketball was the most deadly sport, accounting for 36 percent of sudden deaths. Baseball and football each accounted for 16 percent of sudden deaths, and soccer accounted for 13 percent.
Fully 73 percent of sudden deaths occurred in kids between the ages of 12 and 14, and about 80 percent of the sudden deaths were boys.
“Until this study, sudden deaths occurring in youth sport had been grouped with sudden deaths occurring in older athletic populations in previous epidemiological studies,” Brad Endres, the study’s lead author and the assistant director of sport safety at KSI said. “Our goal was to clearly define the understanding of ‘youth sport’ so that more appropriate and evidence-based policy decisions aimed at improving youth sport safety can be implemented.”
In the release announcing the research, NATA and the National Basketball Athletic Trainers’ Association recommended five tips for keeping their student-athletes safe while playing basketball:
Get a checkup before play. The groups advised parents of athletes to get a pre-participation evaluation from a medical professional, even when it’s not required.
Ask about the coach. The groups recommended ensuring that a coach creates an environment where players feel comfortable to report injuries and get medical attention if necessary.
Ask about emergency plans. The groups suggested asking about venue-specific emergency action plans.
Get a CPR/AED-certified person at every practice and game. The groups suggested knowing where the nearest AED is, and asking if someone certified in administering it in an emergency would be present at every event (practices and games). If not, the groups recommended advocating for that equipment and those roles.
Ask if there is an athletic trainer. Having athletic trainers on hand at every event can be an additional boon to emergency and cardiac care.