The authors hypothesized that prospective, systematic Internet searches could identify occurrences of sudden cardiac death (SCD) in athletes and would be useful for establishing a system of active surveillance. Weekly advanced Google searches of the Internet were conducted for cases of SCD in young athletes during a 12-month period (2007–2008). Athletes ages 11–30 years who collapsed during a game, practice, or within an hour of exercise were included in the study. Individuals with known histories of cardiac issues and events occurring outside the United States were excluded. Verification of SCD was by autopsy reports and death certificates from county coroner offices and vital record agencies. Initially, 71 events were identified. Verification for the cause of death by coroner reports was possible in 45 cases, 43 (96 %) of which were confirmed to be SCDs. A total of 69 individuals 11–30 years of age (mean 17 ± 5 years) died suddenly of cardiovascular causes while participating in 15 different organized sports and a variety of nonorganized physical activities. The most common cause of death was hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (30 %), followed by coronary artery anomalies (9 %), and myocarditis (9 %). The incidence of athlete SCD, the types of sports involved, and the cardiac causes of death in our study were comparable with those of previous reports. Readily available Internet searches have the potential to be a powerful tool for identifying occurrences of athlete SCD. An active surveillance system using Google searches followed by coroner report verification can provide important epidemiologic and clinical information.
Athlete Cardiac Epidemiology Sudden death Surveillance
The authors had full access to all the data in the study and take responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis. We thank Henry J. Lin, MD, and Michael J Silka, MD, for providing valuable comments to improve the manuscript. Ruey-Kang R. Chang received research funding from the National Institutes of Health (1RC1HL100114-01 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act program).
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