Cardiac Arrest While Exercising

Cardiac Arrest While Exercising

By Dr Tony Setiobudi BMedSci, MBBS, MRCS, MMed (Ortho), FRCS (Ortho)

Cardiac Arrest While Exercising

Christian Eriksen, a Danish Player, suddenly collapsed on the field in the midst of a soccer match. If the medics didn’t come on time and perform CPR, Eriksen’s life may not have been saved. He suffered from cardiac arrest. This condition can occur during exercise or when a person is not doing exercise. It can also happen in people who never exercise.

Eriksen had a sudden cardiac arrest with no warning signs.   Most cases of cardiac arrest occur suddenly and unexpectedly.

What is cardiac arrest?

Our heart functions to pump blood throughout the body so that our organs can function properly. During cardiac arrest, the heart suddenly stops pumping or it pumps extremely fast and irregular that it can’t pump blood properly. As a result, the oxygen level decreases. The consciousness will also decrease and eventually, the person passes out and collapses as happened to Eriksen.

CPR is the ultimate thing that saved Eriksen’s life. It pumped blood to Eriksen’s body again.

According to research, the rate of mortality after cardiac arrest is very high despite CPR. If the cardiac arrest occurs outside hospital settings, the chance of survival is only below 10%. Christian Eriksen’s odd of surviving is among those under 10%. He is very lucky. If it happens in a hospital setting, the survival rate increases but it is still less than 20%. The CPR performed immediately after cardiac arrest increases the survival rate between 2-3-fold.

The probability of cardiac arrest in athletes is very small – 0.76 per 100,000 athlete-years.

Unfortunately, there is no effective way to detect cardiac arrest or the risk of cardiac arrest before it happens. Even with a very comprehensive medical examination for world-class athletes like Eriksen, this cannot be picked up with certainty.   So even if the medical check-up is perfect, it doesn’t mean someone has zero chance of having a cardiac arrest.   It can still happen.

Most cases of cardiac arrest occur without any warning signs in people who are really fit and are exercising every day. Like Christian Eriksen before he collapsed, he played well with no signs of anything was going to go wrong.   Although in most cases, there are no warning signs, sometimes there are some subtle signs such as a fainting feeling, chest pain, shortness of breath and heart palpitations before cardiac arrest happens. These signs should not be ignored. If you are exercising and suddenly you experience things like these, you have to stop your exercises. Quickly ask people around you to bring you to the nearest doctor or hospital.

For bystanders, if someone collapses near you, quickly call 995 if you are in Singapore and immediately check ABC – airway breathing and circulation and start CPR if it is needed. You may save someone’s life.

I hope this information is useful to all of you.

Cardiac Arrest While Exercising

Dr Tony Setiobudi is an Orthopaedic & Spine Surgeon at Mount Elizabeth Hospital (Orchard), Singapore.

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