Heart disease specialists meet Spanish footballers to develop tools for detecting sudden death syndrome

Applied Biosystems hosts first symposium on sudden death in football players and other European athletes


Leading cardiovascular research scientists and a number of prominent football figures from Spain recently convened at the world's first symposium focused on the molecular analysis of sudden death in football players. The I Symposium de Prevención en el Futbol was held at the Hospital Clínico San Carlos in Madrid, where scientists were brought together to initiate the development of new tests for identifying sports players at risk of sudden death. Applied Biosystems was the sponsor for this event.

Sudden death syndrome is most common in men under the age of 40 and generally causes immediate cardiac arrest during strenuous exercise. Reports of unexpected deaths of young men participating in marathons, cycling races and football matches are not unusual. Sudden death can be caused by a variety of diseases or genetic factors. Genetic causes usually have no symptoms, so professional athletes at risk of the syndrome can appear to be in peak physical condition during routine medical and fitness checks. The cardiovascular disease tests that are currently available are usually insufficient to detect an individual at risk of sudden death, and only a genetic test will provide the required accuracy and reliability.

Developing a new test for predicting sudden death was one of the main objectives of the Madrid symposium, which included a roundtable discussion about methods for identifying specific molecular or genetic changes in people who are at risk. These biomarkers could be used to develop a test panel for screening football players or other sportsmen to identify their risk of sudden death. There are several known genetic causes of sudden adult death, including abnormalities of the heart muscles, and malfunctioning of ion channels. Ion channels are vital cellular structures through which ions, such as calcium, potassium or sodium, pass in or out during the heart's normal functioning. Malfunctions of these channels can result in cardiac arrest. Several ion channel abnormalities have been identified that are known to increase the risk of sudden cardiac arrest, including long QT syndrome and Brugada syndrome.

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