Sudden cardiac events in sports: report them to prevent them!

2016 - 09 - 01

Sudden cardiac events in sports: report them to prevent them!

Much attention is drawn to cardiovascular health and associated risk factors in Luxembourg. The occurrence of sports-related sudden cardiac events, such as a strong chest pain or a heart attack during or shortly after sports practice, is however not well understood yet.

To address the knowledge gap, the Sports Medicine Research Laboratory at LIH’s Department of Population Health, in collaboration with “Société pour la Recherche sur les Maladies Cardiovasculaires”, launched the first official Luxembourg database of sports-related sudden cardiac events (SCE) in April 2015. The main purpose of this database, in line with national ethics and privacy regulations, is to improve the prevention of sports-related SCE.

SCEs can affect both recreational and high-level sportsmen who have never experienced heart problems. They are not uncommon: in Luxembourg there is an estimated number of 5 cases per year. The database will allow to refine the estimation of the frequency of SCEs and to map the profiles of people at risk (sex, age, practiced sport and medical history) to develop appropriate preventive measures. ‘We aim to identify sports-related SCEs that took place between 2000 and 2016, and will continue monitoring until 2019,’ explain Prof Daniel Theisen and project leader Eric Besenius from the Sports Medicine Research Laboratory.

To feed the database, the researchers rely on incidents reported by the media as well as testimonies of victims, their families or the ambulance service. An online form available at allows to enter data into the registry.

Eric Besenius reports about the preliminary results obtained during the first year of the project: ‘We did not yet identify activities presenting a higher risk for SCEs. In most cases, SCEs occurred in training sessions or competitions, which indicates that the context of competition or high-intensity sport could increase the risk. Another risk factor appears to be the resumption of a too intense physical activity after a period of inactivity. Our results do though not contradict the proven fact that regular physical activity promotes cardiovascular health and well-being in general.’

The identified SCE victims were predominantly male, aged between 14 and 80, and did not have previous heart problems. SCEs could be influenced by a genetic component. It is therefore recommended to first-degree relatives of a victim to assess of their cardiovascular health with specialised medical tests.

The research project can only have success if sufficient data is collected. Therefore, anyone who experienced or witnessed an SCE during or following (up to 1 h) a sports activity in Luxembourg (or abroad for a resident or a person with a license for a Luxembourgish sports club) is encouraged to fill in the online form on the website. The research team is also available for further information and assistance.

Read also our related press release in French and German.