June 17, 2024

What Bronny James Health Teaches Us About Cardiac Arrest in Young Athletes

Top line

Bronny James, the incoming University of Southern California basketball shooting guard and son of sports legend LeBron James, was hospitalized after suffering a cardiac arrest during practice, a family spokesperson told TMZ on Tuesday, the same condition known as killer No. 1 of student athletes and most prevalent among male basketball players.

Key facts

James, an All-American athlete, collapsed on the USC basketball court Monday and is now in stable condition after receiving on-site care from the school’s medical and athletic staff, the James family. said.

Sudden cardiac arrest is usually caused by an irregular heart rhythm called ventricular fibrillation, the Mayo Clinic says, but it can also occur in people who have no known heart disease but have a family history of coronary artery disease or other risk factors such as smoking, obesity or diabetes.

Sudden cardiac arrest, which describes the sudden stopping of the heart and what it is not the same as a heart attack, it is the biggest killer of college athletes, researchers from the University of Washington reportedand is responsible for approximately 75% of sudden deaths among student athletes who die during exercise.

Men are most likely to suffer sudden cardiac death—1 in 38,000 compared to 1 in 122,000 for female athletes—and basketball players are most at risk, statement published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology said.

Although basketball players make up only 4% of all male athletes in the National Collegiate Athletic Association, 20% of the NCAA’s sudden cardiac deaths occur among basketball players, the statement said.

Football players are the next most at risk—both sports make up 23% of male NCAA athletes but see 50% of all sudden cardiac death cases.

This is the second incidence of sudden cardiac arrest in the USC basketball program in as many years—Vince Iwuchukwu, also a freshman, fell during an informal team exercise on 1 July 2022 and also survived.

Famous cases of sudden cardiac death include a Boston Celtics player Reggie Lewis, who died on the basketball court at age 27 in 1993; NBA G League Player Zeke Upshaw, who died aged 26 two days after going into sudden cardiac arrest in 2018; and three international ones soccer players who died during games within three years: Marc Vivien Foe, 28, Miklos Feher, 24, and Antonio Puerta, 22, died between 2004 and 2007.

Background Keys

One of the most remembered cases of sudden cardiac arrest – and one that started mass awareness of the condition – occurred at Loyola Marymount University in 1990. Thousands of fans watched as 23-year-old Hank Gathers collapsed on the court and died of sudden cardiac arrest. CPR was not immediately given to Gathers and although an AED was used, it was unsuccessful, prompting continued pressure to establish emergency plans and train coaches and staff to provide a comprehensive response to such incidents, which kill between five and 10 NCAA athletes each year, the Washington Post reported.


Damar Hamlin, who was 24 when he collapsed on live television after completing a tackle with the Buffalo Bills, drew widespread attention to the dangers of sudden cardiac arrest in young athletes after his own incident in January. Hamlin earlier this month paid tribute to the first responders who saved his life on stage at the ESPY Awards and, just days ago, visited the University of Cincinnati Medical Center where he was treated to assist with pressure for CPR and AED training. Hamlin has been cleared to play football this season and took part in spring exercises.

Surprising fact

Tesla founder and Twitter CEO Elon Musk on Tuesday responded to reports that Bronny James had dropped out blaming him on the Covid-19 vaccine. “We can’t add everything to the vaccine, but, by the same token, we can’t add anything down,” he tweeted. “Myocarditis is a known side effect. The only question is whether it is rare or common.” There is evidence of a “casual association” between cases of myocarditis, inflammation of the heart muscle, and COVID-19 mRNA vaccines, such as those made by Moderna and Pfizer, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. Myocarditis after the Covid vaccine is “extremely rare” with 1,626 cases of myocarditis among more than 354 million primary doses and 37 cases of myocarditis among more than 81 million booster doses, according to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Myocarditis is associated with an increased risk of sudden cardiac death in young people, according to Danish researchers available in 2019, but the link is rare. Only 6% of the sudden cardiac deaths studied listed myocarditis as the cause of death.

Further Reading

Intersociety Consensus Statement on the Cardiovascular Care of College Student-Athletes (Journal of the American College of Cardiology)

LeBron’s Son James Bronny has reportedly suffered a Cardiac Arrest, in stable condition (Forbes)

Lisa Marie Presley, 54, Dies After Sudden Cardiac Arrest (Forbes)

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