Cardiomyopathy is the term used to refer to diseased myocardium, or heart muscle. It is a hereditary disorder that affects people of all ages and is prevalent amongst, male athletes of African descent.
There are a number of different types of cardiomyopathies. They cause sudden death due to congenital abnormalities of the heart, blood vessels or coronary arteries. Research has shown that the most common cause of sudden death is due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, in which an area of the myocardium thickens causing an abnormal heart rhythm that could be fatal.
According to the Sports Medicine Journal, in younger athletes hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, commotio cortis and coronary artery anomalies are the primary reason for sudden cardiac death, while athletes over the age of 35 are mainly affected by atherosclerotic coronary artery disease.
While there is no cure for cardiomyopathy, there are ways to prevent and treat the condition.
Proper screening for high school and college athletes is extremely pertinent for early detection of any type cardiomyopathy. Often times, a simple school pre-participation physical is not enough for those athletes that have a history of heart surgery, syncope or abnormal heart sounds. In addition, athletes with a family history of cardiomyopathy or Marfan’s Syndrome are highly susceptible to cardiomyopathy, and must be evaluated by a cardiologist.
A number of famous athletes were victims of sudden cardiac death due to cardiomyopathy. They include NBA player Hank Gathers, NFL offensive lineman Korey Stringer, MLB player Darryl Kile and many more.
Source: cardiomyopathy.org, circ.ahajournals.org
Photo Credit: barnesjewish.org