Debra Duquette, MS, CGC, Genomics Coordinator & Beth Anderson, MPH, Genomics Epidemiologist, Michigan Department of Community Health
A Michigan Story on Lessons Learned and Action Steps to Take
The winter months have arrived and with them comes a certain madness, specifically March Madness. On March 12, 2012 the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament will commence. Most of the focus will be on cheering for the teams we picked to win our brackets; however, as Michigan learned last year, this isn’t the only thing we need to focus on.
On March 3, 2011, with less than 30 seconds left in overtime in Fennville High School’s final regular season men’s basketball game, a winning layup was scored that brought Fennville’s team an undefeated record. With district playoffs in Fennville’s future, the gymnasium was full of celebration. Within moments, the crowd went silent as their star player collapsed to the ground. Wes Leonard, the player who had scored the winning basket moments before was now unconscious. Over 2,000 fans stood stunned, waiting for paramedics to arrive. Although an AED was present at the school, it was not charged and CPR was not performed because people did not think that cardiac arrest could be at fault in someone so young. Wes was later declared dead at a local hospital and the autopsy showed that he died of cardiac arrest due to an enlarged heart.
Sudden deaths of young athletes bring attention to an important public health problem known as sudden cardiac death of the young (SCDY), which occurs in non-athletes, too. On average, an estimated 66 athletes die suddenly of cardiac cause each year in the United States. Each year in Michigan alone, approximately 300 people aged 1-39 years die suddenly of a cardiac cause. Importantly, SCDY is known to have a strong hereditary component in many cases.