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Bronny James’ cardiac arrest isn’t as uncommon as you’d think

The rate of healthy, young men suffering sudden cardiac arrest is surprisingly high, as many aren’t aware they have arrhythmias. That number is even higher amongst male athletes.

Up-and-coming basketball star Bronny James, son of the great LeBron James, was rushed to hospital yesterday after suffering a cardiac arrest during basketball practice. 

The 18-year-old University of Southern California student and player was training on campus when the incident happened and was treated on-site before being admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU). 

In a statement made on behalf of the James family, a spokesperson said “Yesterday, while practising, Bronny James suffered a cardiac arrest. Medical staff were able to treat Bronny and take him to the hospital. He is now in stable condition and no longer in ICU.

“We ask for respect and privacy for the James family and we will update the media when there is more information. LeBron and Savannah wish to publicly send their deepest thanks and appreciation to the USC medical and athletic staff for their incredible work and dedication to the safety of their athletes.”

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Reports about the incident say Bronny’s cardiac arrest was likely caused by a kind of arrhythmia, which the Mayo Clinic states is an irregular heartbeat caused by asynchronous electrical signs. “The faulty signalling causes the heart to beat too fast (tachycardia), too slow (bradycardia) or irregularly.” 

According to St John’s Ambulance Victoria cardiac arrest is the biggest known killer in the modern world. In Australia alone, a first-world country with high-class healthcare, the death rate from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest is 90 per cent, and “for every minute that passes without CPR and defibrillation, the chance of survival for a casualty decreases by 7 to 10 per cent.”

While many people are aware they suffer from cardiac arrhythmias, as they can be genetic, a lot do not, thus are unable to properly mitigate the risks by avoiding certain strenuous activities. 

Dr Richard Kovacs, a cardiologist with Indiana University Health, told Fox Sports “In the last decade, we’re also seeing a shift toward cardiac arrhythmias that come without what we call structural heart disease,” – meaning they’re incredibly hard to spot. 

The fact that Bronny survived the incident is remarkable. But it’s also a dark reminder that it’s not the first time a young male athlete has suffered a cardiac arrest when they’re seemingly at their physical prime. 

Men, particularly male athletes, are at a higher risk of experiencing sudden cardiac arrest than women, and tragic stories of young men passing away after bouts of physical activity are becoming increasingly common. 

The early symptoms of cardiac arrest are similar to feelings of exhaustion or physical exertion, including shortness of breath, a tightness in the chest, and fast heartbeat. Thus, the warning signs are often ignored or go unnoticed. 

On the American front, cardiac arrest is reportedly the number one cause of death among high school athletes in the US, accounting for around 75 per cent of all students who died during exercise. Meanwhile in Australia, According to research done by the Centenary Institute, an Australian medical research centre in Sydney, every year around 30,000 Australians die from sudden cardiac death. Worryingly, these numbers are particularly high amongst young Australians, with four Aussies between 15 and 35 dying from SCD each week. 

So what can people do to reduce their risk of sudden cardiac arrest? If you have concerns about your heart health, your first port of call should be the doctor, who can listen to your heart and order tests to survey the risk. 

If you know you have an arrhythmia or genetic predisposition to cardiac disease, then screening and regular checkups are a must, along with personal vigilance and awareness of symptoms. 

The Mayo Clinic also suggests the following to foster greater heart health: 

  • Eating a healthy and balanced diet
  • Getting regular checkups
  • Not smoking or using tobacco
  • Being screened for heart disease
  • Controlling blood pressure and cholesterol

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