ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – A local cardiac surgeon says the sudden death of a 13-year-old O’Fallon, Illinois boy during basketball practice last week at school is rare, but happens more often than it should.
Each year, between 100 and 150 student athletes die during competitive sports due to unknown heart problems.
“What makes it so devastating is these are young deaths of people who are otherwise healthy,” says Dr. Richard Lee, co-director of the Heart Center at Saint Louis University Hospital. “It’s only about 0.3 percent and it’s a low probability, but the consequences are tragic.”
Oftentimes the muscle becomes abnormal in select patients, he says, and it predisposes to the electrical impulse going irregular, so the heart can’t beat.
Lee says some countries like Italy require athletes starting in grade school to get an EKG before competing.
In the U.S., it’s typically 18 years of age.
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