Underlying structural heart disease is common in athletes who die before age 35. One database that reported the cause of death among young competitive athletes with heart disease evident during autopsy found hypertrophic cardiomyopathy to be the most commonly identified problem. (1) In contrast, the most common cause of death in athletes over age 35 is due to coronary artery disease. (2)
Throughout the history of American professional wrestling there have been a number of professional wrestlers who experienced sudden cardiac death during or shortly after a match. On July 2, 1969 Mike Dibiase, stepfather of Ted Dibiase, died during a match in Lubbock, Texas. He was 45 years old. The autopsy reportedly confirmed the cause to be coronary artery disease.
Although WWE has not had a wrestler suffer sudden cardiac death in the ring, cardiovascular testing is part of the Talent Wellness program that was instituted on February 27, 2006. Dr. Bryan Donohue, Chief of Cardiology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center oversees the program. Wrestlers undergo stress testing prior to being offered a contract, biennally, and as circumstances dictate. (3)
- Circulation 2007; 115(12): 1643.
- Am J Cardio 1980; 45(6): 1292.
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