Sudden cardiac arrest in an otherwise young and healthy individual strikes again. Donald Fredenburg, 23 and in his second week of training at the NY state police academy collapsed and died after a training run on Friday March 13. Academy staffers were able to use an external defibrillator to restart his heart, but he later died at the hospital due to the damage caused by the event. This young man served 4 years in the marines and was on his way to becoming a NY state trooper. An autopsy showed that he had a 95% blockage of one of his coronary arteries. This is extremely rare in someone so young, but it does happen. If you are going to exercise and exert yourself, regardless of age, your heart should be properly checked by trained professionals who specialize in this. With a 95% blocked coronary artery, any cardiac stress test could have detected this. Mr. Fredenburg is said to have passed a vigorous fitness test in order to gain entrance in to the police academy a few weeks prior to his death. This does not make his case confusing the way some media reports suggest. A fitness test in NO WAY looks at your heart. They are lucky he did not collapse and die during the fitness test. Young people, especially young males will ignore the warning signs of an impending cardiac event. You CAN NOT trust that your athletic organization, or the police academy, or the military, or your health insurance company,or your government are looking out for you. The current medical standard of care says that testing you properly is not cost effective. I guarantee you and your family place a higher value on your life than those who do these calculations.
March madness is almost here. We are also at the 25 year anniversary of the tragic passing of Hank Gathers. Arguably the most well known and publicized example of a student athlete death from sudden cardiac arrest, Hank passed away on March 4, 1990. I was a sophomore in high school and basketball player. I remember it very well. It is so hard to imagine that 25 years later, as a country we are still not mandating proper heart testing to save the lives of the unfortunate with unknown heart conditions like Hank.
In 2013, the NCAA appointed its first ever chief medical officer, Brian Hainline. Mr. Hainline seems to be moving in the right direction! The Wall Street Journal posted an article today about Mr. Hainline’s ambition to recommend EKG screening for the highest risk college athletes. Basketball players fall into this category. In honor of Hank Gathers, and the countless other lives lost, we really hope this reform is seen through.
Today we came across a great book by a cardiologist in Oregon who uses all the proceeds of the book to conduct free heart screenings for kids. Bravo!! Dr. Beckerman’s practice emphasizes healthy lifestyle and nutrition with regular exercise as the foundation of good heart health. We couldn’t agree more!! Wonderful to see preventative cardiology promotion for adults, and also another great teammate in fighting sudden cardiac arrest in kids.
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