The Boston Celtics announced Saturday that the contract of Jeff Green will be voided as a result of the forward being diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm. The 25-year-old will undergo season-ending heart surgery to repair the problem.
This incident is important on both micro and macro scales.
After reporting to training camp on Dec. 9, the condition was discovered when Green failed a stress test during his physical. Several cardiac specialists recommended the surgery that should allow Green to resume his basketball career next season.
According to the Mayo Clinic website, an aortic aneurysm (which can cause fatal bleeding) is described as, “a weakened and bulging area in the upper part of the aorta, the major blood vessel that feeds blood to the body. Because the aorta is the body’s main supplier of blood, a ruptured thoracic aortic aneurysm can cause life-threatening bleeding.”
Green is not the first professional athlete this year who has discovered a life-threatening condition via a team physical.
In October, the Eagles medical staff discovered a brain tumor when running back Jerome Harrison underwent a required physical after being traded by the Detroit Lions to Philadelphia. The Washington Post reported that Harrison told the Eagles doctor he suffered from headaches, prompting the doctor to order an MRI which revealed the tumor. ESPN reported that Harrison’s surgery was successful as doctors removed the entire tumor.
Had Harrison not been traded, or Green not signed a new contract, both of their lives would still be in medical jeopardy, at best.
News of Green’s heart condition elicited sad memories for Celtics fans as the death of Reggie Lewis in 1993 still haunts Boston. The late Celtic died during an off-season practice after having previously shown symptoms of a heart condition (including collapsing during a playoff game) in the months leading up to his death.
Lewis died of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, commonly referred to as an an enlarged heart, the same condition that took the life of Fred Thompson, an Oregon State freshman football player who died on Dec. 7.
Like Green’s condition, an enlarged heart can easily go undetected due to lack of physical symptoms. According to an Associated Press story about the death of Thompson, “Dr. Karen Gunson said Friday that the 19-year-old had increased thickness of the heart muscle, which can cause an irregular heartbeat during strenuous exercise. She says the condition is a common cause of death in young athletes who seem completely healthy but die during heavy exercise.”
Despite the fact that few people exhibit symptoms of an enlarged heart, some do, and others could if they underwent physical testing, such as the stress test that helped reveal Green’s condition. According to the Mayo Clinic website, “in a small number of people with this condition, the thickened heart muscle can cause signs and symptoms, such as shortness of breath and problems in the heart’s electrical system resulting in life-threatening abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias).”
If an athlete exhibits any symptoms, a simple, painless test called an Echocardiogram (ECG) could be administered to diagnose an enlarged heart and other heart conditions. In fact, several countries and the International Olympic Committee now require athletes to undergo screening including an ECG before partaking in sports, according to a story written by CNN’s Elizabeth Landau in March of this year after four high school student athletes died of heart conditions during athletic competition within a two week period.
"There are about 50 to 100 sudden deaths among athletes in middle, high school and college every year, said Dr. Marlon Rosenbaum, associate clinical professor of medicine and pediatrics at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons," wrote Landau.
The same article ( http://tinyurl.com/6nfepto ) cites two differing studies; one of which found mandatory ECG testing did not affect the number of sudden athlete deaths in Israel and another study which previously found a reduction in sudden deaths among athletes after the implementation of mandatory testing in Italy.
While the impact of screening is debatable, that is exactly the point; there should be a debate. I have long maintained that professional athletes (and even college athletes for that matter) should undergo both physical and mental evaluations three times per year. Once during the preseason, again during the season and once more at season’s end.
Why should some football and hockey players suffer head injuries in a game and not be given a concussion test immediately?
Why should an athlete wait to get traded to undergo a simple test that would subsequently reveal a brain tumor?
Why should three NHL enforcers fight mental demons which stemmed from the game and resulted in their deaths?
While Derek Boogaard addressed mental health and addiction issues by going to rehab, he was embarrassed and worried about how his reputation might be impacted ( http://nyti.ms/vvLrZM ). Surely mandatory physical and mental evaluations would simultaneously help to reduce the stigma of weakness associated with health issues and perhaps, reveal life threatening conditions before its too late.
Click here to read Elizabeth Landau’s article on how teen athlete deaths can be prevented: http://tinyurl.com/6nfepto
Click here to read “Punched Out: The Life and Death of a Hockey Enforcer,” a fascinating 3-part series about Derek Boogaard by John Branch of the New York Times: http://nyti.ms/vvLrZM
Several Pepper On Sports readers wrote me after my original article about a car accident in Portland, OR. involving suspended Lions defensive tackle Ndomukong Suh early Saturday morning ( http://pepperonsports.tumblr.com/post/13694240878/ridin-dirty-suspended-lions-dt-suh-crashes-car-in ). These readers expressed that something didn’t seem right about the story, and that at best, Suh had to be driving at fairly high speeds to lose control of his car while simply trying to drive around a stopped vehicle on a city street.
As it turns out, the readers were on to something. According to the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) Suh’s two female passenger had left the accident scene by the time police arrived and once they were interviewed by police Sunday, both women claimed Suh was driving recklessly, there was no taxi cab impeding Suh’s progress and that both women said they were injured in the accident.
Here are a few of the PPB’s findings, reported by KOIN-TV:
“‘He was driving too fast and reckless all the time. There was never a taxi. He was just going too fast and he could have killed someone at Dante’s,’ one of the women stated in the police report. Dante’s is a night club located at 350 West Burnside near the location of the crash. The same woman told police she suffered a laceration to her forehead that required five stitches, a black eye, a ‘busted lip’ and a torn shoulder muscle. The women allege they left the scene before police arrived to avoid the large crowd of people who had gathered outside Dante’s to take photos of Suh. They told police they called for a ride in order to get medical treatment.”
Additionally, KGW-TV reports that there were three passengers in the car, not two, as was originally reported, and that one passenger told Suh she needed medical attention after the crash but he refused to help, and she instead called her husband who picked her up. A passenger told KGW, “When the light turned green, he floored it. I just remember going so fast and it was violent, and just getting thrown around like rag dolls.”
It seems as though Suh will be let off the hook, regardless of this new information. Why? Well, the PPB says the criteria for investigating a car accident has not changed in light of the witness’ accounts. The police won’t investigate a crash unless it involves “intoxicated drivers, traumatic injuries, or vulnerable road users.”
Hopefully somebody will investigate the situation. Why was Suh driving so fast on a city street? What was he thinking? Was this a case of stupidity and carelessness, or is it a symptom of something more serious, like a mental health issue? I would think someone (cue the reporters and beat writers hovering around Suh’s locker on his first day back at work) will ask him these questions in attempts to hold him accountable and see where his head is at these days.
If the PPB doesn’t reconsider looking into the matter any further, Suh should thank his lucky stars. Although with this information becoming public, Roger Goodell will no doubt keep the incident in his back pocket, adding it to the growing list of Suh’s misdeeds.
Suh will sit out Sunday’s home game against the Vikings as he wraps up a two-game suspension for stomping the Packers’ Evan Dietrich-Smith in the Lions Thanksgiving game.
I’m still hoping head coach Jim Schwartz and the Lions organization will suspend Suh for an additional game to send a message on behalf of the team (not the league) that his reckless and illegal on-field behavior won’t be tolerated. I won’t hold my breath though.
First he tried to de-helmet the Packers’ Evan Dietrich-Smith before stomping on homie’s arm on Thanksgiving. As a result, he got suspended for two games without pay and then while on leave, he crashed his ride into some local scenery in Oregon. It’s been a crappy 10 days for Ndamukong Suh.
While the Detroit Lions were preparing to take on the Saints in New Orleans without their star defensive tackle, Suh was involved in a nasty single car crash, hitting a curb, light pole, drinking fountain and a tree, according to KOIN-TV in Portland.
KOIN reports that police responded to the accident at 1:15 a.m. Saturday after the 24-year-old lost control of his car resulting in the accident.
"Officers spoke with Suh and determined that he was not impaired and simply lost control of his vehicle," reported KOIN on the station’s website. "Neither Suh nor his two passengers were injured in the crash and Suh was polite and cooperative with the officers, according to police."
Suh, who graduated from Grant High School in Portland was driving a 1970 Chevy Coupe which was towed from the scene.
According to an update from the Portland Police Bureau, Suh was trying to get around a stopped taxicab in the street when he lost control as the back end of the vehicle spun out. The press release says Suh was not issued a citation and the department “does not perform traffic crash investigations for non-injury, non-DUI crashes.”
The good news here is two-fold… Most importantly, nobody was injured, but another saving grace is that Suh was not driving drunk. Aside from legal implications, a DUI would result in several missed games, a major financial hit, and even more guaranteed alone time with the Commish himself, Roger Goodell.
Suh seems to be stuck in a rut coupled with some bad karma. Hopefully this accident will serve as a wake up call for the young man. While he might be big, strong and talented, he’s not invincible and needs to act accordingly, both on and off the field.
As a football fan, it would be hard not to appreciate the talent and tenacity of Ndamukong Suh. While the the Detroit Lions defensive tackle plays the game with skill and heart, his apparent disregard of the game’s rules has called his intentions and character into question. New York Jets guard Matt Slauson has seen enough of his former college teammate to form an educated opinion, and sadly, the portrait he paints of Suh isn’t pretty.
I have defended Suh, wanting so desperately to love him as a player, but his sad Thanksgiving day display was the last straw for me. Suh, in his second NFL season was ejected from the game in the third quarter after slamming Packers guard Evan Dietrich-Smith’s head into the ground before stomping him with his right foot.
I tweeted that Suh has become out of control, thus indefensible and that he might want to consider therapy to get his emotions and anger in check. I took some criticism from the twitter world for that one, but I explained to the doubters that while yes, football is a physical sport, the violence falls within the structure of the game. It is not a free-for-all, nor a boxing ring or octagon.
Apparently Slauson agrees with me, telling the New York Post that he wonders if Suh needs medical help. “Somebody needs to get him under control, because he’s trying to hurt people,” Slauson told the Post. “It’s one thing to be an incredibly physical player and a tenacious player, but it’s another thing to set out to end that guy’s career.”
Not including the Thanksgiving game incident, Suh has already been fined more than $42k for his unsportsmanlike play in his young NFL career and also met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to discuss his style of play.
According to the Post’s exclusive interview, Slauson said, “I have no idea what the league can do, because apparently what they’re doing now isn’t working. I don’t know what’s going on with him, but something isn’t right. I mean, they’ve fined him out the butt, but he still doesn’t think he’s doing anything wrong. I don’t know what they’re going to have to do, but something has to be done.”
Something must be done. I expect the NFL to fine and suspend Suh, but clearly he hasn’t shown much respect for the league’s rules and penalties. I think the only way he’ll get the message is if the Lions organization and head coach Jim Schwartz hand Suh an additional suspension. The problem is, the team hasn’t exactly condemned Suh’s behavior, at least not publicly, so I’m not sure they truly want him to change his behavior.
Slauson told the Post that while Suh was respected by his college teammates at Nebraska for his play on the field, he was not well-liked on a personal level.
Hopefully this latest incident will serve as the last straw for the Lions’ before Suh really hurts someone. Sadly, I won’t hold my breath.
For more of Slauson’s comments, which there are plenty of, I highly recommend reading the Post’s article here: http://www.nypost.com/p/sports/jets/jets_slauson_suh_is_out_of_control_hZS50vtS1Ti4VvUGhd44pN#ixzz1elWAY8fX
When Jahvid Best went down with yet another concussion, I’m sure Detroit Lions back up running back Jerome Harrison felt ready to seize the opportunity of getting on the field and contributing, as all competitors do. Surely, Harrison’s spirits took a nose dive when shortly after, he found out he was being traded to the struggling Philadelphia Eagles (where he spent part of last season after being traded from the Browns) for Ronnie Brown. Little did Harrison know this unwelcome move by the Lions would be a blessing in disguise.
While we don’t know the details yet, a brain tumor is a brain tumor… you don’t want one, no matter what kind it is, and that, unfortunately, is what 28-year-old Harrison, in his sixth NFL season has. Eagles team doctors found the tumor while giving their new running back a physical exam which nullified the trade. Now Brown will stay put in Philly and Harrison is having the tumor treated. Hopefully we will get more information about his exact medical condition soon.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter writes, “The trade might have actually saved Harrison’s life, the sources said. Without the deal being made, Harrison would not have undergone a physical.”
If you have read my previous blog post about head injuries, concussions, depression and player suicide, you can guess where I’m headed here.
For many years, I’ve believed every player on a professional team should undergo three physical (including blood work, body scans) and psychological exams per season. Once before the season starts, again at mid-season and a third time at the end of the work year.
While I know my ideal is just that, an ideal (for many reasons such as cost, and teams surviving on “what we don’t know can’t hurt us” in regards to their players), imagine the impact such care could have in terms of both physical and mental health.
Hank Gathers. After collapsing during a game in December, 1989, the Loyola Marymount University basketball star was checked out and diagnosed with an exercise-induced abnormal heartbeat and prescribed medication. Gathers was fortunate to survive that first episode, but we all know how this story ends. Gathers had reportedly reduced his dosage of medication or perhaps stopped taking it all together because he felt it adversely affected his play on the court. Just a few months later, he collapsed at a West Coast Conference Tournament game and died shortly after.
Michigan high school basketball player Wes Leonard wasn’t as lucky as Gathers, never getting that initial second chance at life. The first collapse, which came after Leonard and his teammates celebrated his game-winning shot, would be his last. Shortly after his death in March of this year, the medical examiner said the 16-year-old died of cardiac arrest brought on by a condition called dilated cardiomyopathy. According to an LA Times article by Eryn Brown, “people with dilated cardiomyopathy have enlarged and weakened hearts that cannot pump blood through the body efficiently. The American Heart Association has advised that children with dilated cardiomyopathy should not play competitive sports ‘because of the possibility of a sudden collapse or increased heart failure.’”
The last sentence suggests that such ailments, like Gathers’ condition, can be diagnosed by a doctor, certainly, before death.
Unfortunately, the idea of such screenings is a bit of a mixed bag. Famed Chicago Bears running back Brian Piccolo passed a full physical, including a chest x-ray in July heading into the 1969 football season. Four months later, the 26-year-old was diagnosed with cancer after a grapefruit-sized tumor was discovered in his chest cavity. Piccolo died less than a year later.
David Epstein provides more details on the pros and cons of screening athletes in his Sports Illustrated column:
"A study published last year by doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital reported on a program that screened 510 Harvard University athletes. That study identified 11 athletes with heart abnormalities that had not been previously identified, and three of those athletes ultimately had to be restricted from sports…At the same time, about one in every six athletes was given a false positive result that required follow-up, begging the question of whether a mandatory nationwide screening program would be effective from a financial and emotional standpoint, given current diagnostic tools."
Clearly this discussion opens up a massive can of worms and perhaps there is no easy or obvious solution to the problems faced by athletes, athletic institutions and medical providers. But it’s still a discussion worth having. Just ask Jerome Harrison.
Read more of David Epstein’s story about athletes and heart conditions: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2011/writers/david_epstein/03/08/enlarged.hearts/index.html#ixzz1bLkr1kLY
I want Jahvid Best to be my personal Polly Pocket. Listed at 5’10, 199lbs (listed, being the key word… I don’t believe either number), the Lions running back is a perfect, petite specimen who looks like he doesn’t belong on an NFL field, yet is physically capable of much more than most of his associates.
Best is a little beast; the sidecar to Calvin Johnson’s Harley. These two are inherent mismatches on the football field making a defensive coordinator’s job pretty tough when preparing for the Detroit Lions. Just ask the the Lions latest victim, the Chicago Bears, who dropped to 2-3 after Detroit beat them 24-13. The Lions are now 5-0 for the first time since 1956.
Best helped make that long shot record a reality with a breakout game Monday night, racking up a career best 163 rushing yards on only 12 carries, good for one touchdown. In his sophomore year in the league, this was the first time Best broke the 100 yard mark on the ground (he logged 154 receiving yards against the Eagles in week two of last season).
The highlight of the night for Best (and there were plenty to choose from) came in the third quarter when he ran through the defense, humiliating Bears DB Brandon Meriweather in the process of going 88 yards down the field for a touchdown. I literally stood up once he broke free, inspecting the TV as it appeared that someone in the ESPN truck had hit the fast forward button. Best went from 0-60 in about three seconds, Porche-style. Counting a few receptions on the night, Best accounted for 172 of the Lion’s 359 offensive yards, that’s 47.9 percent of Detroit’s total offense! Seriously?? Seriously.
Best’s performance tonight gave me flashbacks of his glory days at Cal Berkeley where he broke several records, serving as Reggie Bush’s replacement as the most exciting and explosive back in the then-Pac 10.
I admit to jumping on the Lions bandwagon big time, and I hope to stay there for a while. Considering a plethora of weapons on both sides of the ball, plus Best seemingly hitting his stride, I think it’s safe to say the Lions are for real. Hopefully we’re witnessing the collision course that will lead to one of hell of a game between the Lions and Packers on Thanksgiving Day.
Here’s the link to Jahvid Best’s 88-yard touchdown run.
Bill Clinton is acquitted in impeachment proceedings. Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino opens in Vegas. Napster launches. John F. Kennedy Jr. dies in a plane crash. Lance Armstrong wins his first Tour de France. Hugo Chavez becomes president of Venezuela. Family Guy debuts. Both the Lions and Bills make the playoffs.
Yep! The last playoff appearance for both the Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions came more than a decade ago on January 8, 2000, during the 1999 football season.
Fast forward to Sunday, September 25, 2011, when the Bills beat the Patriots 34-31 and the Lions took down the Vikings 26-23 in OT. Now I’m not saying that this 3-0 start means either team will make the playoffs this season, but it’s a damn good start, all things considered.
This is the first 3-0 start for the Lions in 31 years (1980 season), and for Buffalo, their first 3 straight since the 2008 season. I got really excited for both teams for a quick second before having a flashback to 2009 when the Denver Broncos started 6-0 under then-rookie head coach Josh McDaniels. The Broncos didn’t make the playoffs that season.
To narrow the focus a bit, each team snapped an ugly streak with today’s win. The Bills had dropped 15 consecutive games to the Patriots, with their last victory over New England coming on Buffalo’s season opener back in 2003. The Lions, on the other hand, snapped a 14-game skid in Minneapolis, conquering the Vikings in the Metrodome for the first time since 1997.
On a small scale, each team won a specific yet important battle today. Like Richard Dreyfuss tells Bill Murray in “What About Bob,” it’s all about baby steps. The Bills and Lions cleared both a mental and physical hurdle with wins over their division rivals.
Interestingly both teams did it by way of the comeback. The Bills, at one point in the second quarter, trailed the Pats 21-0 while the Lions overcame a 20-0 Vikings lead. This is a catch 22… on one hand, it’s not good that both teams needed to dig themselves such a deep hole in order to get motivated enough to play well. On the other hand, you can’t hate on a double digit deficit comeback.
For Buffalo, their last playoff appearance was a memorable one that they would like to forget…the Music City Miracle. For Detroit, it was a 27-13 beatdown by the Redskins, who out-gained the Lions 223-45 in rushing yards, and sacked them 5 times. Yikes.
I think today’s win was bigger for the Bills than the Lions. Why? The Patriots are not only the best team in the AFC East, but one of the best in the NFL. Buffalo beat the better team on paper and in reality.
In AP writer John Wawrow’s article, he quotes linebacker Chris Kelsay, who is one of only of four Bills players who was on the roster for the win against the Pats in ‘03, “It’s the biggest win of my career. I can’t think of any bigger…To beat these guys at home, in front of our fans, with the way they’re behind us despite being down early, it’s huge. I’ll never forget it.”
Then we have the Lions who are only 4 seasons removed from going 0-16. I still can’t believe that happened. Lions defensive end and overall beast Ndamukong Suh said after the game, “It feels great to start the season this way. This is what I expect from this team. We started out slow, but we’re able to limit their points and the offense picked it up in the second half.” It’s easy for Suh to say, since he has only been around for a season and some change. The handful of ‘08 players who are still on the team must be beside themselves with glee (and a bit of happy disbelief as well).
The Bills are now the division leaders in the AFC East. I know, it doesn’t sound right verbally or being typed on a keyboard, but it’s true. Up next the Bills have the Bengals in Cincy, the Eagles at home, and the Giants in Jersey before their bye in Week 7. Should be an interesting few weeks there.
Meanwhile the Lions are co-leaders of the NFC North, hanging out with the defending Super Bowl champ Packers. Coming up, Detroit gets the Cowboys in Dallas before three consecutive home games against da Bears, 49ers and Falcons, respectively. The Lions will go to Denver to face the Broncos before their bye in week 9. They don’t play the Packers until week 12 in the Motor City.
Underdogs make sports appealing and desirable. I’ll be rooting for both of these teams throughout the season, expecting the worst, but hoping for the best case scenario; that the Bills and Lions are finally for real.