PRISM: Pediatric Research In Sports Medicine Abstract Submission



REPORTED CAUSES OF DEATH DURING YOUTH SPORTS PARTICIPATION, 2016 -2021

SM Horwitz, DC, CCSP Dallas Sports Academy, Rockwall, Texas


The number, causes, and circumstances of deaths in organized youth sports has not been well elucidated in the context of data collection platforms, stakeholder education, and implementation of emergency action planning. Current methods of data surveillance (including medical staff documentation) likely underestimate youth sports death numbers due to underreporting. Media analysis in order of injury surveillance in epidemiological investigations has been shown to be a valid method of data collection.


Purpose: To determine the number and causes of death during youth sports participation in the context of data collection and emergency preparedness.


Methods: Reports of deaths during organized youth sports participation were propspectively identified via the Google Alert platform using related search terms and other publicly available news or media reports. The data was gathered between January 1, 2016, and December 31, 2021. The following variables were collected: Athlete age, athlete sex, sport, practice or game, and reported cause of death. Data are presented as total number of deaths, causes of death, age of death, deaths by sex, deaths by event type, and deaths by sport.


Results: From 2016 to 2021, 146 deaths related to participation in youth athlete organized sports were reported. The most frequent cause of death was a cardiovascular event (n = 82, 56.1%), followed by heat-related death (n = 21, 14.4%) and head and neck trauma (n=18, 12.3%). 35 deaths occurred at age 16 (23.9%) and 26 occurred at 17 (17.8%). The youngest age of death was 8. 131 deaths were in males (89.7%). Football had the highest incidence of death (n = 80, 54.8%), followed by basketball (n = 24, 16.4%), and soccer (n = 12, 8.2%). Overall, there were 18 unique sports (including PE class). Conditioning and/or practice accounted for 58.9% of death incidents (n = 86), and games (including PE class) accounted for 41.1% (n = 60).


Conclusions: Reported deaths in organized youth sports in the United States from 2016 through 2021 were most frequently cardiac related, occurred most often in males in their mid-teens, in football, and during practices. These findings affirm the need for improved surveillance and emergency action planning, education, and implementation.


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