Fake News: False Statement About Sudden Cardiac Death Among Athletes Becomes Viral

Fake News: False Statement About Sudden Cardiac Death Among Athletes Becomes Viral

According to the latest fake news, there were more sports deaths due to cardiac arrest in 2021 and 2022 than there were in 1966–2004. Instagram post from January 4th alleges 1,101 athletes died from SCA between 1966 and 2004, and another 1,598 athletes died from SCA between 2021 and 2022).

The post contrasts a number from a reputable study with one from an unreliable online piece. As the 2021-22 number is not based on any valid scientific study, numerous medical specialists told USA TODAY that the comparison is not acceptable. One such expert described the article’s roster as a patchwork of everyone they determine is a part of it.  Individuals who were not professional athletes but who died of cancer are included.

The post incorrectly compared two different sets of numbers.

Dr. Rachel Lampert, a sports cardiologist at Yale University, commented on the post as well. The “1,101” number in the post comes from a 2006 peer-reviewed study that researched medical literature to determine the prevalence of sudden cardiac death (the unexpected passing away caused by a heart defect) in athletes.

According to the study, between 1966 and 2004, 1,101 recorded incidents of sudden cardiac death happened in athletes younger than 35. Most of the deaths were attributable to preexisting heart conditions.

However, the 1,598 number was taken from an article on GoodSciencing.com. Since the release of the COVID-19 vaccination, the report claims that 1,101 athletes have died of sudden cardiac arrest or other causes.
The article cites a number of people of varying ages and health who are said to have experienced cardiac arrest as evidence. Among the others mentioned are a cancer-stricken wrestler and a football coach named Mike Leach, 61, who died of heart-related issues.

Medical professionals, however, disagree that the article proves that 1,598 athletes died of abrupt cardiac arrest as the post states.

As opposed to more broad research like the 2006 study, the specific procedure, criteria, sources of data, etc. are not mentioned in the blog post or validated by an external body.

Morristown Medical Center’s Director of Atlantic Health System Sports Cardiology, Dr. Matthew Martinez, agrees, noting that the study adhered to standards such as determining the presence or absence of a cause, the presence or absence of a preexisting condition, and the inclusion or exclusion of certain age groups.

Furthermore, Chokshi added, establishing the cause of death is hard without access to a person’s prior medical history. Notably, considering the article’s assertion regarding a connection to COVID-19 immunizations, not a single person’s vaccination status is mentioned.

Anna Daniels

Anna is an avid blogger with an educational background in medicine and mental health. She is a generalist with many other interests including nutrition, women's health, astronomy and photography. In her free time from work and writing, Anna enjoys nature walks, reading, and listening to jazz and classical music.

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