Fact Check: NO Proven Link Between 'Athlete Cardiac Arrests' And COVID-19 Vaccine -- Many Non-Cardiac, Non-Vaccine-Related Cases Cited In Goodsciencing List

Fact Check

  • by: Ed Payne
Fact Check: NO Proven Link Between 'Athlete Cardiac Arrests' And COVID-19 Vaccine -- Many Non-Cardiac, Non-Vaccine-Related Cases Cited In Goodsciencing List Nonspecific

Does a social media post listing "1,884 Athlete Cardiac Arrests" and 1,310 deaths between January 2021 and July 2023 prove a connection between these mishaps and the COVID-19 vaccine? No, that's not true: While the ultimate source of the information cited in the post lists hundreds of "athletes" who have died or collapsed for various reasons (some of them clearly noncardiac in nature, like cancer, suicide, drug overdose or accidents), their vaccine status is largely unknown. Also, no connection is made between COVID vaccination and the medical events that led to them being put on the list.

The claim appeared in a post on Instagram (archived here) on July 27, 2023, under the title "1,884 Athlete Cardiac Arrests in 2.5 Years, 1,310 Dead." The caption for the post said:

Totally normal, right? Everyone remembers the regular ambulance emergency when someone drops from cardiac arrest at some athletic event. That was just part of life. We'd hear the sirens over the cheers at little league, or soccer, or in the gym. #toxfreedoc #cardiac #heart #health #heart

This is what the post looked like on Instagram at the time of writing:

Instagram Athletes.png

(Source: Instagram screenshot taken on Wed Aug 2 15:47:36 2023 UTC)

The headline and picture in the Instagram post come from an article on the Slay News website. Variations of the headline echoed across social media and the internet. A couple of examples appear below. The first is a tweet from Leading Report:

X Leading Report.png

(Source: X screenshot taken on Wed Aug 2 16:18:59 2023 UTC)

This one is from the NFL Draft Diamonds (NDD) website:


(Source: NFL Draft Diamonds screenshot taken on Wed Aug 2 16:20:33 2023 UTC)

The source

What the social media posts and articles all have in common is their source: a website called Good Sciencing that keeps a running tally of what it says are "Athlete Cardiac Arrests or Serious Issues" since COVID vaccinations began. This is what the regularly updated article looked like on August 2, 2023, about a month after the other headlines with lower numbers:

Good Sciencing.png

(Source: Good Sciencing screenshot taken on Wed Aug 2 16:49:02 2023 UTC)

Good Sciencing keeps the identities of its "small team of investigators, news editors, journalists, and truth seekers" secret. (The Lead Stories analysis of who appears to be behind the site is here.) The website's About page says:

It doesn't really matter who we are. What really matters is that we [are] carrying on an investigation and we're presenting the evidence we've found, almost all of it documented in mainstream media publications.

We're doing this anonymously because we've seen people viciously attacked and threatened for doing things like this, so we're not going to open ourselves or any of our contacts to that.

The About page of the site also thanks the following anti-vaccine or vaccine-hesitant groups and individuals: the "NOTB - Sports - Sudden collapse and deaths." Telegram group, the "No More Silence" website, "Stew Peters" and "all the individual investigators."

An investigation by Lead Stories revealed that one of the key persons behind the site is likely Alan Gray, the CEO of NewsBlaze, an Australia-based entrepreneur who runs alternative news websites. He does not appear to have any medical or scientific credentials.

The list

The version of the Good Sciencing article available on August 2, 2023, said the site had compiled the list of 1,919 "athlete cardiac arrests [and] serious issues" since the advent of widespread COVID vaccinations in early 2021. It claimed this tally includes 1,340 deaths. The article's opening paragraph sets up its premise:

It is definitely not normal for so many mainly young athletes to suffer from cardiac arrests or to die while playing their sport, but this year it is happening. Many of these heart issues and deaths come shortly after they got a COVID vaccine. While it is possible this can happen to people who did not get a COVID vaccine, the sheer numbers clearly point to the only obvious cause.

The article goes on to say:

Contained in the list are many professional athletes and high level amateur athletes. It would not be sensible to try to report the death of every person on the planet, so we have selected a category of person who should be fit enough to lead a long and healthy life. This means that provided a person is reasonably fit, healthy and does some athletic activity, rather than an unfit 'couch potato,' then they can be included in this list. Needless to say, these are only the persons reported to us by readers or that we discovered during research.

Looking at the list, Lead Stories found that Good Sciencing appears to have a broad definition of what constitutes a professional athlete or a high-level amateur athlete. Included on the list are 61-year-old college football coach Mike Leach, a 54-year-old soccer coach and a 67-year-old former NHL hockey player, who all died. One of the more unusual athletes on the list was Thailand's then-44-year-old Princess Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol, who collapsed while training her dogs.

Also, many of these "athletes" did not collapse or have heart attacks. Gary Tiller, a 62-year-old curling player from Canada, died after a "brief battle with cancer," a softball player committed suicide and a linebacker who overdosed on drugs. Max Mitchell, a 23-year-old rookie with the New York Jets, didn't die but he wasn't playing for the rest of the 2022-23 season because of blood clots in his right leg. There are dozens of other examples.

The deaths or serious health issues of these individuals are largely well-documented, but the purported connections to COVID vaccinations are not. It's not clear in the majority of cases what their vaccination status was or if it even played a role in their deaths or health crises. The Good Sciencing article acknowledges this difficulty:

More people are writing to tell us that in many cases, we didn't mention a person's vaccination status. There is a good reason for that. None of the clubs want to reveal this information. None of their sponsors want to reveal it. The players have been told not to reveal it. Most of their relatives will not mention it. None of the media are asking this question.

Long before the pandemic and COVID vaccines, the deaths of young athletes were not uncommon. In a 2016 study of "Sudden Cardiac Death in Athletes," three Massachusetts General Hospital physicians estimated the incidence of sudden cardiac death at between 1 in 40,000 athletes to 1 in 80,000 athletes per year.

Additional Lead Stories fact checks of claims related to vaccines can be found here.

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Lead Stories is working with the CoronaVirusFacts/DatosCoronaVirus Alliance, a coalition of more than 100 fact-checkers who are fighting misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about the alliance here.

  Ed Payne

Ed Payne is a staff writer at Lead Stories. He is an Emmy Award-winning journalist as part of CNN’s coverage of 9/11. Ed worked at CNN for nearly 24 years with the CNN Radio Network and CNN Digital. Most recently, he was a Digital Senior Producer for Gray Television’s Digital Content Center, the company’s digital news hub for 100+ TV stations. Ed also worked as a writer and editor for WebMD. In addition to his journalistic endeavors, Ed is the author of two children’s book series: “The Daily Rounds of a Hound” and “Vail’s Tales.” 

Read more about or contact Ed Payne

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