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Int J Sports Med. 2000 Nov;21(8):613-5.

Prior myocardial infarction is the major risk factor associated with sudden cardiac death during downhill skiing.

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Department of Sport Science, University of Innsbruck, Austria.


More than 90% of all sudden cardiac deaths (SCDs) during downhill skiing, the most popular winter sport world-wide, are attributed to men over the age of 34. However, no data exist on additional risk factors and triggers for SCD related to downhill skiing. Therefore risk factor profiles of 68 males who died from SCD during downhill skiing were compared to those of 204 matched controls. Skiers who suffered SCD had much more frequently prior myocardial infarction (MI) (41% vs. 1.5%; p<0.001), hypertension (50% vs. 17%; p<0.001), known coronary heart disease (CHD) without prior MI (9% vs. 3%; p=0.05) and were less engaged in strenuous exercise (4% vs. 15%; p<0.05) when compared to controls. Multivariate analyses even enhanced the importance of these risk factors. Downhill skiing is considered to be a serious trigger for SCD especially in skiers with prior MI but also for those with hypertension, known CHD without prior MI, or insufficient adaptation to strenuous exercise. Skiing-related increased sympathetic activity might well disturb the autonomic balance with subsequent arrhythmias and/or may increase cardiac work and platelet aggregability with possible plaque rupture and coronary thrombosis. Therefore adaptation to high intensity exercise and therapeutic interventions or abstinence from skiing in certain cases should be considered for downhill skiers at high risk.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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