Int J Sports Med 1988; 09(5): 353-355
DOI: 10.1055/s-2007-1025040
© Georg Thieme Verlag Stuttgart · New York

Sudden Death of a Young Wrestler During Competition

G. P. Rontoyannis*, G. Pahtas*, D. Dinis**, N. Pournaras**
  • *Department of Physical Education and Sports Science, Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki
  • **Ergospirometric Laboratory, “Laikon” General Hospital, Athens
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14. März 2008 (online)


The circumstances of the sudden death of a young healthy wrestler in the course of a wrestling match are described. The death occurred due to acute ischemia of the brainstem as a result of the acute interruption of blood flow to his vertebral-basal system, as a consequence of the injury or rupture of vertebral arteries, after injury of the neck. This interruption of the irrigation of the brainstem with blood provoked the sudden death of the athlete.

The cause of the injury to the neck of the wrestler was the wrong position of his head (it was trapped between the mat and his own forearm), at the moment when the athlete was in the inferior disadvantaged position and his opponent was exerting a powerful but permissible effort to overthrow him. The combination of the wrong position of the head of the injured athlete and the forceful action of the wrestler in the offensive resulted in the overflexion and rotation of the head of the former and the (inevitable) damaging of his neck. Various predisposing factors effectively contribute to the injury, the main ones being the lack of warming up of the athlete, the premature fatigue of the athlete, minor injuries at the cervical segment of the vertebral column during the phases preceding the main injury, and the confrontation with an opponent of greater training age and superior fighting level. The only way to deal with similar, very rare indeed, incidents is to implement the set of preventive measures described.