Letters to the Editor

The Many Potential Causes of Sudden Cardiac Death in Young Athletes


Am Fam Physician. 2018 Aug 1;98(3):142.

Original Article: Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy: An Often Silent Disorder with Delayed Diagnosis [Close-ups]

Issue Date: December 1, 2017

See additional reader comments at: https://www.aafp.org/afp/2017/1201/p738.html

To The Editor: I believe that the statement in this Close-ups that the death of college basketball player Hank Gathers was the result of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is an oft repeated error that highlights the problem with using contemporary media, particularly Wikipedia, as a source. His death did indeed involve a form of cardiomyopathy, but it is believed myocarditis was the cause, not hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.1 Although hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a common cause of sudden death in athletes, it was specifically excluded as the cause of death for Hank Gathers. It has even been speculated that had Gathers withdrawn from competition for a substantial period and fully recovered from myocarditis, he might have safely resumed competition.

Sadly, many young athletes have died of undiagnosed hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. However, Gathers's death serves as a reminder that there are many other potential causes of sudden cardiac death in young athletes, including myocarditis, right ventricular dysplasia, and anomalous coronary arteries.

Author disclosure: No relevant financial affiliations.


1. Maron BJ. Sudden death in young athletes. Lessons from the Hank Gathers affair. N Engl J Med. 1993;329(1):55–57.

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