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College Athletes and Sudden Cardiac Death: Why Do Male Basketball Players Have Such a High Risk?

There’s an interesting story in today’s Wall Street Journal, by Katherine Hobson about a new method some cardiologists have come up with to better diagnose life-threatening heart conditions among student athletes. Apparently, since the hearts of well-conditioned athletes sometimes put out more electrical voltage than average, their ECG’s can often look like that of someone with a heart problem. This has led to an underestimation of the risks that sudden cardiac death (SCD) poses to student athletes, according to the study, even though it’s their leading medical cause of death during exercise. The findings were published this month in the American Heart Association journal Circulation. You can read the abstract here.
What really caught my eye though was an info-graphic the WSJ ran next to the story. Using data from Circulation, the graphic depicts the overall rates of SCD, from high to low, per year from 2004 to 2008 among NCAA college athletes, broken out by different sports. I’ve reproduced it in a table below:

Overall Men Women
Basketball 1 in 11,394 1 in 6,993 1 in 37,799
Swimming 1 in 21,293 1 in 34,552 1 in 16,457
Lacrosse 1 in 23,357 1 in 19,770 1 in 30,531
Football 1 in 38,497 1 in 38,497 N/A
Cross-Country 1 in 41,695 1 in 59,484 1 in 32,801

Why, I wonder, do male basketball players have such an abnormally high rate of SCD compared to other athletes? And why do female swimmers rate so high as well?