Cardiology Expert Opines on Sudden Death of Boot Camp Workout Participant


Cardiology Expert WitnessThis fitness industry case involves a a healthy, middle-aged female who had enrolled in a boot camp style group fitness program at a local gym. As a part of the exercise regime in the program, participants were required to perform a wide range of high-intensity workouts, including the use of a range of weights, boxes, and other equipment. The program was designed to be a high-intensity experience that would keep participant’s heart rates elevated for an extended period of time. At some point during the exercise, the woman clutched her chest and collapsed. Attempts were made to revive the woman by gym staff and an ambulance was called for. Shortly after arriving at a local hospital, the woman was pronounced dead from a suspected heart attack. The decedent’s estate alleged that the woman’s death was caused by the high intensity of the workout, and that proper warnings regarding the health effects of the exercise were not shared with the decedent before joining the class. During discovery, several witnesses also explained that the instructor asked all 1st time participants to raise their hands at the beginning of the class. The instructor then singled out first time participants, demanding that they continue pushing and providing encouragement to test the limits of their bodies. The gym disputes that the cause of death was in fact a heart attack.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Is it likely that this woman died from a heart attack brought on by her workout?

Expert Witness Response E-000218

By definition, this death is almost certainly a sudden cardiac death. There is a highly remote chance of it being a stroke or a pulmonary embolism, which might also account for the sudden onset of symptoms and death, but this is very unlikely. Sudden cardiac death is synonymous with ventricular fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia. That being said, A myocardial infarction (MI) may or may not have been the underlying substate; in the US 80% of sudden cardiac death is due to coronary artery disease (CAD), the underlying disease process in myocardial infarctions. However, 60% of the time, sudden cardiac death is the first presenting symptom of coronary artery disease. Coronary artery disease takes 20-30 years to develop and is asymtomatic for the majority of that time. I think it is highly likely that this unfortunate individual did experience sudden cardiac death, most likely due to underlying coronary artery disease possibly during a MI, which was triggered by the stress of her workout.

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