We have unfortunately seen the heart-wrenching scenario many times over of a young athlete fighting for his or her life as the result of cardiac arrest. Seemingly healthy young athletes such as Shareef O’Neal, Damar Hamlin, and Bronny James have both experienced this sudden medical emergency, out of the blue, but why? Dr. Celine Grounder, a CBS News medical contributor and editor-at-large for Public Health at KFF, offers several possibilities as to what causes cardiac arrest in young athletes.


“One possibility is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a thickening of the heart muscle that is often observed in elite athletes and sometimes in individuals with certain genetic predispositions,” Dr. Gounder said to CBS News. “Another scenario is commotio cordis, in which a sudden blow to the chest disrupts the cardiac rhythm, leading to cardiac arrest. The third possibility is a genetic arrhythmia, an abnormal heart rhythm.”

Dr. Grouder said that although there are only a few of these sudden emergencies that make headlines, cardiac arrest in young athletes occurs more often than people tend to realize.

“It really hits the headlines when it’s somebody famous, like Damar Hamlin, like Bronny James. But this is certainly something that happens.”


A recent study authored by researchers at the University of Washington found some alarming results in terms of those who are potentially predisposed to sudden cardiac arrest/death. The researchers concluded that among NCAA athletes, Black, male college basketball players are most at risk. Although the reasons for this are still unknown, further studies need to take place.

A family spokesperson representing the James family stated on Tuesday that Bronny, “… is now in stable condition and no longer in ICU. We ask for respect and privacy for the James family and we will update media when there is more information.”

As of yet, there has not been any additional information as to what caused the USC student’s medical emergency; however, Dr. Grouder said that Bronny’s road to recovery could possibly take a few months filled with a myriad of testing, MRI’s, and monitoring.

“You’re talking about probably a couple of months at least of testing, follow-up, trying to assess does he have a recurrence before easing back into training and play.”

For more information, regarding cardiac health, please visit, the American Heart Association. And, as always, if you are concerned about yourself, contact a physician.

Prayers for a healthy recovery, Bronny!


Photo Credit(s)/Featured Image: Bronny James Instagram

Tiffany Silva

Tiffany Silva

Writer and Editor

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