21-Yr-Old Athlete Dies of Cardiac Arrest: What Could’ve Caused It?
On Tuesday, 15 January, a 21-year-old athlete collapsed on the field during a warm-up. He was rushed to the hospital by his teammates where he was reportedly declared brought dead due to a cardiac arrest. Aniket Sharma was a left-handed batsman who had joined the cricket academy in Kolkata in 2018.
Traditionally, sudden deaths linked to the heart have been associated with people who are 60 years old or above. So what exactly happened in this case where Sharma was not only young, but also an athlete, an ideal example of a healthy and fit person?
Dr Mukesh Goel, a cardiac surgeon at Apollo Hospital, New Delhi, points out that this case is definitely different.
To further understand what could have happened here’s a look at some basic functioning of the human heart.
Heart Attack and Cardiac Arrest
When a heart attack happens, there are abnormalities in the electrical and muscular structure of the heart and there is no way to prevent it, points out Dr Goel.
However, this is different from a cardiac arrest.
People often term sudden death as a heart attack, when in most cases it’s a cardiac arrest which leads to the collapse. During a cardiac arrest, which is caused by what is called ventricular fibrillation, the heart suddenly stops functioning; the arteries are just fine. There’s no reason why it happens or the activity in the musculature stops.Dr Mukesh Goel
The doctor assumes that this is probably what happened with the young athlete as well.
3 Situations That Can Cause a Heart Attack, On the Field or Off
According to Dr Arvind Das, senior cardiologist at Max Hospital, Gurgaon, there is a very specific heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy where an athlete can suddenly fall to their death on the field.
1. This condition is marked by a thickening of one part of the heart muscle, making it harder to pump blood. This, in turn, causes an imbalance in the demand and supply of blood, adds Dr Das.
In order to avoid this, the doctor points out, screening is important from an early age.
2. The second instance of a heart attack on the field, or on a treadmill, another place where in rare situations, young, fit people might go into a fatal heart emergency, is when due to some reason, a sudden blood clot forms in the heart. The clot blocks the blood to an artery thereby leading to a heart attack.
This sudden drop in the flow is especially harmful for a healthy heart unaccustomed to functioning at low blood circulation. If a heart is already weak, it would have already grown used to it.
3. Another situation is when there is gradual deposition of cholesterol in the heart over the years. This can start as early as at five years of age.
Does Exercise Make You More Inclined?
Dr Goel further points out that during exercise, a person is more inclined to get a cardiac arrest. This is true of all age groups.
Look at it like driving a car. The higher the speed, the harder the engine has to work to power it. Similarly, when you’re exercising your pulse rate increases and goes as high as 130-140 per minute. The heart contracts harder and expels more blood with every beat. This is also true of everyone in all age groups.Dr Mukesh Goel
The doctor further adds that 50 percent of all cardiac arrest-related deaths are preventable with some basic first aid. This includes CPR and massaging along with the use of defibrillators.
This is why it’s important for all schools, offices, colleges and gyms to give a basic CPR training, he says.
Dr Das adds that in case of a sudden collapse on a field, CPR should be administered immediately as first aid. Pumping at the rate of 60-70 times a minute should help before professional intervention arrives. While cases like this one might be rare anecdotes, he says, it’s important to proceed gradually when trying to push boundaries of the body.