Sudden death

From Academic Kids

This article relates to "sudden death" in the context of sport. For sudden death in the medical sense, see Cardiac arrest.

Sudden death within the context of this article is a way of providing a winner for a sports contest which would otherwise end in a tie. It provides a victor for the contest without a specific amount of time being required, usually by making the first team or participant scoring in the additional time of play the winner. Sudden death is often referred to as sudden victory in the official jargon of sports utilizing it to avoid the generally negative context of "death".

North American professional sports using a sudden death method of settling a tied game include the National Football League, the National Hockey League and, in a modified sense, the Arena Football League and the PGA TOUR (golf). Baseball uses a method of tie-breaking that is somewhat unique to it and incorporates elements of sudden death, but is not a sudden death-ending sport in the strictest sense.


Professional Hockey and NFL

The National Hockey League, American Hockey League, ECHL, and the National Football league use a modified sudden-death system in their regular seasons. If neither team scores during a specified period of additional time (five minutes in professional North American hockey, fifteen minutes in the NFL), the game ends and is recorded as a tie. If neither team scores during the specified period in the AHL or ECHL, the teams will go to a five player penalty-shot shootout to determine the winner.

In 2000, the AHL changed overtime by having the teams reduced to four players each during the five-minute overtime, and any two-man advantage will be awarded by having the team with the two-man advantage being able to play five-on-three during the two-man advantage. The ECHL and NHL both changed to the four-on-four overtime format in 2001.

During championship playoffs, however, all games are played to a conclusion resulting in a victory for one team and a loss for the other. These are "true" sudden death games, which have gone on into a second additional period in football, and as many as six additional periods in ice hockey, which are full 20-minute periods with five players, instead of the five-minute period with four players. The practice has been widely criticized in the case of the NFL, as games often are decided when the team receiving the ball at the start of the sudden death overtime scores during that initial possession and the opponent loses without having ever had possession of the ball in overtime. Largely in answer to this criticism, the tiebreaking system adopted in college football involves baseball-style "innings" in which each team alternates possessions until one outscores the other during a corresponding "inning" rather than the sudden death system, and where a team must attempt a two-point conversion starting with the third overtime "inning". The criticism has tended to be different in hockey, where the prospects of a six- or seven, or even eight-period match seem to threaten the well-being of the players, coaches, officials, and even fans, and other ways of curtailing the matches and providing a victor, such as the penalty shot shootout, used regularly by the AHL and ECHL in the regular season and once by the NHL during an All-Star Game in 2002, and in elimination matches in international (IIHF) tournaments, have been proposed.


The Arena Football League uses a modified version of sudden death, in which each team is allowed one overtime possession and the team which has scored the most points at that juncture being declared the winner, with sudden death going into effect if the score is still tied at this point. During the regular season, time expires after one additional fifteen-minute quarter and the game results in a tie if neither team had scored. (This has actually occurred only once since this format was adopted — on April 8, 2005, when a game between the Dallas Desperados and the Nashville Kats ended in a 41-41 tie.)


Traditionally, professional golf tournaments ending in a tie were played off the next day with an eighteen-hole match. Modern considerations such as television coverage and the tight travel schedule of most leading golfers have led to this practice being almost entirely abandoned, and in all but the most important tournaments, the champion is determined by sudden death. All players tied after the completion of regulation play are taken to a predetermined hole, and then play it and others in order as needed. If more than two players are tied, each player who scores higher on a hole than the other competitors is immediately eliminated, and those still tied continue play until one remaining player has a lower score for a hole than any of the others remaining, and that player is declared the winner.

Of the four men's major championships, only The Masters uses a sudden-death playoff format. The US Open still uses an 18-hole playoff at stroke play on the day after the main tournament, with sudden death if two (or more) contestants remain tied after 18 holes. The Open Championship and the PGA Championship use a three-hole total-stroke playoff, with sudden death used if a tie exists at the end of the scheduled playoff.


Baseball is not truly a sudden death sport, but has important elements of the practice. Traditionally a baseball game cannot end until both teams have had an equal number of turns at bat. This means that if a baseball game is tied going into the last scheduled inning or an extra inning that it is essentially a sudden death situation while the home team, which always bats last, is at bat with the score tied. Regardless of the number of runs scored by the visiting team in an extra inning, the home team will receive an opportunity to equal or exceed this total prior to having three outs recorded against it during its turn at bat.

Sudden death has been used to determine the outcome in some instances of other sports such as bowling, and at least proposed in some of the minor leagues of basketball as a tiebreaker after playing a specified number of fixed-time overtime periods, but has never been adopted in basketball at any championship level.

Football (soccer)

Sudden death has a controversial history in soccer, in which ties in important matches were traditionally resolved by replaying the entire match, which in the era of television and tight travel schedules is obviously impracticable, but esteemed by the sport's purists as the only equitable way to settle a tied match. For the most part, if the score is tied after the full 90 minutes, a draw results; however, if one team must be eliminated, some form of tie-breaking must occur. Originally, two 15-minute halves of extra time were held and if the teams remained equal at the end of the halves, kicks from the penalty mark were held, which is generally held in lower regard by purists and traditionalists than even sudden death. To try to decrease the chances of requiring kicks from the penalty mark, the IFAB, the world law making body of the sport, experimented with new rules. The golden goal rule, transformed the overtime periods into sudden death until the periods were over, where shootouts would occur. As this became unpopular, the silver goal rule was instituted, causing the game to end if the scores were not equal after the first 15 minute period as well as the second. The silver goal has also fallen into disrepute so Euro 2004 was the last event to use it; in the future the original tie-breaking methods will be used.

The procedure, however, will stay with sudden death in NCAA soccer.


The use of sudden death tiebreakers has even influenced sports such as tennis which have not strictly speaking adopted them. The requirement that a tennis set be won by a minimum margin of two games sometimes resulted in five-set matches lasting six hours or longer, which is an impossibility for television. In order to shorten matches somewhat, sets tied at six games each can now be broken by a tiebreaker which is most often the first player to score seven points in the tiebreaker, but these must be won by at least two points and thus can become quite lengthy in their own right.

Tiebreakers are not used in major tournaments in the third or fifth set, respectively.


Sudden death endings for sporting events have been roundly criticized ever since they were first proposed as both untraditional and unfair, but seem likely to become more rather than less widespread in the future given the exigencies of television coverage and stringent travel schedules for both individual athletes and sports Victory Overtime sv:Sudden death


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