At the IOC in Lausanne: consensus meeting on "Sudden Death in Athletes"

A consensus meeting on “Sudden Death in Athletes” will take place at the IOC in Lausanne on 9 and 10 December 2004. The meeting of the ad hoc working group on Sudden Death in Athletes, chaired by Professor Erik J. Meijboom of the University Hospital Centre in Lausanne (CHUV), is aimed at finding a consensus on measures that can help prevent the high cardiac mortality rate. Fifteen well-known experts, among them medical representatives from the IOC, FIFA and the UCI, will be attending the meeting.

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Lausanne Protocol

The consensus meeting is based on an in-depth study carried out by Karin Bille, David Figueiras and Erik J. Meijboom of the CHUV on the causes of sudden death in athletes under 35. The results of the study, based on numerous scientific publications and field research, will be presented to the expert panel and constitute the basis for producing a consensus paper, the “Lausanne Protocol”. The project seeks to provide athletes from the same sport with the same scientific basis in the prevention of “sudden death”.

Two out of 100,000 athletes

“Sudden death” in athletes is underestimated. The leading cause of non-traumatic sudden death in athletes is cardiac. More than 90% of the cases are linked to a heart problem - the sudden cardiac death. An “athlete” is defined as a person participating in an organised team or individual sport, training regularly and competing regularly against others. Two out of 100,000 athletes between 12 and 35 years of age die of sudden cardiac death each year. In the general, non-athlete population, the incidence is approximately three times lower, at 0.7 individuals per 100,000.

Definition of sudden cardiac death

Sudden cardiac death is defined as follows: unexpected, natural death due to a cardiac cause in a person without any previous condition that would appear fatal, occurring within one hour of the onset of symptoms.

Non-cardiac causes

Non-cardiac causes of sudden death – less than 10% of all cases - include asthma or other pulmonary conditions, heat stroke, cerebral embolism, ruptured cerebral artery or aneurysm, head and spine trauma as well as drug abuse/doping.

Which sports present higher risks?

The meeting on 9-10 December will focus on the cardiac causes of sudden death, and hopes to present a final version of the Lausanne Protocol as a generally acceptable pre-participation protocol and discuss which sports present a higher risk. 

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