In February, hundreds of youth sports safety advocates convened at a Washington hotel. They were determined to talk about something other than concussions, a counterintuitive ambition considering the rampant worry about the effects of head trauma in young athletes.
But the Washington group knew something most do not: the No. 1 killer of young athletes is sudden cardiac arrest, typically brought on by a pre-existing, detectable condition that could have been treated. Another substantial yet hidden lethal threat is heatstroke, a condition considered completely preventable.
Concussions are receiving attention nationwide, but death from a blow to the head is exceedingly rare. In contrast, a young athlete dies from a cardiac incident once every three days in the United States, researchers say. In hot months like August, heat stroke often causes the death of a young athlete every other day on average.