Sudden death in young athletes is a rare but always dramatic condition. Unlike all other rare diseases, the estimate of its real incidence is made complex not only because of the uncertain number of correctly identified cases (numerator) but also because of the uncertain estimation of the real number of the reference population, the athletes (denominator). New elements of complexity are also emerging with regard to prevention.
The current two pillars of prevention are pre-participation screening (proactive strategy) and promoting use / access to the automated external defibrillator (reactive strategy). The standardization of procedures implemented over the past two decades for pre-participation screening can now allow us to assess the impact of this approach. The result is complex to evaluate. While screening may allow the identification of conditions potentially associated with SDA, and therefore the adoption of specific treatments, in about 0.4% of screened subjects, a single study investigated the yield in terms of mortality showing a positive predictive value of 4.7% with 25% sensitivity.
Conversely, the reactive strategy appears considerably effective, due to the widespread use of the automated external defibrillators in sports facilities, calling for a homogeneous implementation worldwide. On a broader perspective, the vast attention devoted to SDA prevention in the world of sports represents a major driver for transfer of a reactive prevention strategy to the general population.