Exertional-Related Sudden Cardiac Death in a Young, Presumed Healthy, and Medically Screened Population: A Military Case Series

Elizabeth V. Mcleod*, John C. Walsh, Mark C. Haigney, Marc Alaric Franzos, Lydia D. Hellwig

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is defined as death from cardiac causes with loss of consciousness occurring within 1 hour of a change in cardiovascular status. As subset, SCD associated with physical exertion (SCD/E) can be defined as a cardiac event whose symptoms start during or within 1 hour of physical exertion. The US military represents a unique opportunity for studying SCD/E because of medical screening at recruitment, mandatory physical training, an active surveillance system, and centralized autopsy services. Because of medical screening, recruits are presumed healthy, but significant conditions can go undetected. We present 4 diverse cases of SCD/E in the military setting. Sudden cardiac death associated with physical exertion is often the first indication of a serious occult cardiac pathology. Postmortem genetic testing revealed a causative pathogenic mutation in 1 of 4 cases, enabling genetic testing of family members to prevent similar catastrophic loss of life, underscoring the importance of postmortem evaluation including genetic testing. Further investigations will help direct screening and prevention to capture those at risk for SCD. The cases presented in this series are a sample of the diverse etiologies and contexts surrounding SCD/E in the military setting that have been captured by Armed Forces Medical Examiner System.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)204-209
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • cardiac
  • exercise-related death
  • exertion-related sudden cardiac death
  • forensic pathologist
  • medical examiner
  • military
  • sudden cardiac death


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