Sudden cardiac death - preventing the tragedy

Improving pre-participation cardiac screening 

Each week in the UK there are 12 cases of sudden cardiac death in fit and otherwise healthy children and young adults.

Cardiac Risk in the Young logoResearchers from LJMU’s Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences (RISES) have helped pioneer and develop the implementation of pre-participation cardiovascular screening protocols to not only help identify those at risk of sudden cardiac death, but improve the cardiovascular care of athletes in the UK and globally.

The Cardiovascular Health Sciences (CHS) Research Group within RISES have developed research knowledge that has been integral to the methodology and processes involved in pre-participation cardiac screening (PPS) used to detect and diagnose a range of inherited cardiovascular diseases that increase the risk of sudden cardiac death in the young. In collaboration with the National Centre of Excellence for Cardiac Pathology (London), the team published the first UK study to examine the pathology associated with sudden cardiac death in young adults.

As a result of this research, and with support from UK charity Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY), the UK’s first national registry of sudden cardiac deaths was established at the National Centre of Excellence for Cardiac Pathology. The registry provides data about the cause of sudden cardiac death in the UK. This provides support for ongoing developments in cardiac screening, treatment and diagnosis of the condition.

Specifically, CHS research has contributed to recent changes in the decision making criteria used during the cardiac screening process. Furthermore this research has contributed to the development of new guidance documents (consensus statements) which were adopted by the European Cardiology Society and various influential sports governing bodies including International Olympic Committee (IOC), FIFA and the Union International du Cycling.

The research has also helped to characterise the structure and function of hearts in athletes, leading to the production of practice guidelines and educational material in cardiac screening by the British Society of Echocardiography.

The guidelines, which have been disseminated to 4,000 UK and international members of the society, have led to changes in how cardiac imaging is carried out in athletes.

In 2009, a CRY Cardiovascular Screening Centre was launched at LJMU to provide cardiac screening to local athletes. A year later this programme was expanded with clinical collaborators to include elite athletes, working with elite football and rugby clubs as well as other individuals, teams and professional sports organisations. The Screening Centre has tested 500 athletes, referring 10% on for further medical investigation. CHS research has also had an impact at an international level, with the roll out of a large scale national screening programme in Qatar, working with the National Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Hospital (ASPETAR). Since 2009 the programme has screened over 6,500 athletes in the gulf region.

Find out more about the research taking place within the Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences.

"The research work of the CHS group with specific focus on the athlete's heart and pre-participation cardiac screening has made a significant impact upon local, national and international provision of cardiac care for athletes."

Professor John Somauroo -
Consultant Cardiologist, Countess of Chester Hospital, Fellow of the College of Sport and Exercise Medicine

Contact us

For more information about research at Liverpool John Moores University:
Call: 0151 904 6353  | Email: ris@ljmu.ac.uk