Entries in Sudden Death (3)


9-Year-Old Dies Walking to Little League Game

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(LAS VEGAS) -- A 9-year-old boy collapsed and died Tuesday night as he was walking to his Little League baseball game in Las Vegas. Spencer Melvin was walking to the baseball field with his father and brother, who were his coaches.

“The hardest part was watching his father, try desperately to save Spencer’s life,” says witness Jennifer Riley told ABC News affiliate KTNV. “I was walking right by them when it happened. No one knew what was going on.”

A statement on the Peccole Little League website said, “Medics and volunteers tried everything to save the child but were unable to revive him.”

Dr. Barry Love, director of Pediatric Electrophysiology at Mount Sinai Medical Center, says that sudden death in apparently healthy children is rare, affecting about 3.4 of every 100,000 individuals.

“First off, it is not due to a ‘heart attack’ in the way that we commonly use the term to describe a condition in adults that results from a sudden blockage of flow to the heart muscle,” said Love.

Love said the most common cause of sudden death is a condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, and the second most common cause are abnormalities of the way the coronary arteries arise from the aorta.

“In this rare condition, there can be episodic spasm of this abnormal coronary artery leading to lack of blood to the heart.  This condition is very difficult to detect especially in a previously asymptomatic individual,” said Love.

Other conditions that can lead to sudden death are a weak heart muscle or electrical abnormalities of the heart, said Love.

Dr. Daphne Hsu, division chief of Pediatric Cardiology at The Children’s Hospital at Montefiore Hospital, said Spencer could have suffered from ventricular tachycardia, an extremely rapid heartbeat.

“With ventricular tachycardia, the heart beats so fast that it cannot deliver enough oxygen to the brain and body and the child dies,” said Hsu.

The cause of Spencer’s death won’t be known until an autopsy is performed.

The Peccole Little League is selling jersey patches in honor of Spencer, proceeds from which will go to his family to help pay for medical and funeral costs.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Should Teens Be Screened for Heart Problems?

Comstock/Thinkstock(SAN FRANCISCO) -- Medical experts have long debated whether teens, particularly athletes, should be screened for heart conditions.  When young athletes such as Wes Leonard, the young Michigan basketball player who died in early March moments after scoring the winning shot for his team, literally drop dead due to underlying heart conditions, parents and physicians begin to wonder if there is anything that can be done to prevent it from happening. 

In some countries in Europe, all high school age children undergo electrocardiograms, or ECGs, to check for certain heart defects.  This isn't done in the U.S., however, because many experts think general screening isn't efficient and wouldn't lead to a sizable reduction in sudden deaths in young adults.

However, by screening over 50,000 high school students in the greater Chicago area using ECG, researchers at the Midwest Heart Foundation detected particular heart conditions, known to be associated with sudden cardiac death, in 2.16 percent of the kids.  They argue their findings show that ECG screening is beneficial and should be implemented as part of a physical for all high school students.

Even so, four out of five medical experts consulted tell ABC News they still don't think such screening is justified.

The lone supporter of general screening recalled that once, when telling the father of a teen volleyball player who had died on the court that ECG screening isn't cost effective, the grieving father replied, "Be sure to include the cost of the funeral."

The Midwest Foundation Thursday presented the argument for teen heart screenings at the Heart Rhythm Society meeting in San Francisco.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


What Killed a High School Basketball Star Following Big Win?

Thomas Northcut/Thinkstock(FENNVILLE, Mich.) -- Celebration turned to tragedy Thursday night at a Michigan high school when 16-year-old Wes Leonard collapsed on the basketball court after scoring the game-winning shot in overtime, helping his team clinch a perfect season.

Paramedics took Leonard to a defibrillator on the Fennville High School court. Soon after he was rushed by ambulance to nearby Holland Hospital, where he died two hours later at 10:40 p.m., the Holland Sentinel reported.

The cause of death remains unclear. Hospital spokesman Tim Breed said an autopsy will likely be conducted.

Sudden death in young athletes is relatively rare, but a major concern among schools and professional organizations. It gained significant attention in 1990 with the death of 23-year-old Hank Gathers, a basketball star at Loyola Marymount University. Gathers died after collapsing on the court during a game against the University of California, Santa Barbara. A medical examiner determined that Gathers suffered from hypertophic cardiomyopathy -- an enlarged heart.

Efforts to develop more sensitive screening tests that could detect risk factors for sudden death, such as cardiomyopathy, are under way. In a study published in the March issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, recording the heart's electrical activity during exercise by electrocardiography had no effect on predicting young athletes' risk for cardiac arrest.

"A variety of cardiac disorders can result in sudden death during sport activity," wrote Dr. Alfred Bove, professor emeritus at Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia in an accompanying editorial in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. "These include hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, long QT syndrome, and Brugada syndrome."

In an interview last week, Fennville coach Ryan Klinger told the Sentinel Leonard was recovering from the flu. Klingler told the Sentinel that Leonard took care of his body "better than probably anybody I've ever coached," adding that the teen spent "a lot of time on his own in the weight room."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio