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
- Former Penn State Defensive Coordinator Jerry Sandusky is charged with 40 felony counts relating to alleged sexual abuse of eight young boys, resulting in the firing of several school administrators, including Head Coach Joe Paterno. The New York Times reports ten other alleged victims have since come forward.
-Two adult men accuse Syracuse Associate Head Basketball Coach Bernie Fine of sexual abuse spanning more than a decade, resulting in Fine being placed on administrative leave.
-Former U.S. Olympics gymnastics coach Don Peters is permanently banned from the sport and removed from the Hall of Fame after an investigation of sexual abuse involving two teenage girls.
And that was just in the last 10 days!
Whether or not such allegations are true or false, it’s been a rough week for the athletic coaching profession.
The flood gates have officially opened as one person speaking out typically provokes bravery in victims who were once too afraid or ashamed to come forward with their stories. A single accusation can also get the attention of fame-seekers who don’t care how many lives they ruin en route to those precious 15 minutes.
Perhaps the scariest piece of this puzzle is the fact that coaches, the men and women who are supposed to teach and care for our children, might be child predators.
I come from a family of teachers, some of whom have coached sports in public schools. Most of my favorite teachers in high school were also the coaches of various athletic teams. I have had nothing but wonderful experiences with the coaches I know.
Having said that, I stumbled upon some scary facts regarding coaches and sexual abuse.
The Seattle Times published a story in December 2003 called “Coaches Who Prey. The Abuse of Girls And The System That Allows It,” written by Christine Willmsen and Maureen O’Hagan. The article covers several topics including different cases in Washington state of coaches being fired for sexual abuse, how many of these men were then hired by other schools, and how easy it is for offenders to become private coaches due to a lack of regulation.
Here a some facts from the article:
- “Over the past decade, 159 coaches in Washington have been fired or reprimanded for sexual misconduct ranging from harassment to rape. Nearly all were male coaches victimizing girls. At least 98 of these coaches continued to coach or teach”
- “The number of offending coaches is much greater. When faced with complaints against coaches, school officials often failed to investigate them and sometimes ignored a law requiring them to report suspected abuse to police. Many times, they disregarded a state law requiring them to report misconduct to the state education office.”
- “Even after getting caught, many men were allowed to continue coaching because school administrators promised to keep their disciplinary records secret if the coaches simply left. Some districts paid tens of thousands of dollars to get coaches to leave. Other districts hired coaches they knew had records of sexual misconduct.”
- “In the growing field of private club teams, coaches can get a job or start a team with almost no regulation or oversight. Men who coach teams sanctioned by the Amateur Athletic Union have been convicted of such crimes as assault, indecent liberties with a child and drug possession.”
The article describes how the passage of Title IX in 1972 created a huge need for coaches in order to comply with the law and most of those hired to coach girls were men.
According to the article, “As a profession, coaching has one of the highest rates of sexual-misconduct complaints, according to Bill Lennon, a Bellevue licensed sex-offender therapist and expert on sexual abuse by teachers.”
It makes sense for a sexual predator to use coaching as his or her gateway to children. Coaches work with athletes for several hours at a time, have plenty of one-on-one interaction, travel together and go mainly unsupervised.
“The Times analysis shows that Washington teachers who coach are three times more likely to be investigated by the state for sexual misconduct than noncoaching teachers. (Coaches who teach at private schools are not required to have a teaching certificate. Without public records, reporters could not include them in the analysis.)”
The article also cites a North Carolina study that found in schools, “the No. 1 reason for dismissal of a coach — accounting for 1 in every 5 firings — was not a team’s poor performance on the field, but the coach’s sexual relationship with a student.”
Okay, so after reading such nightmare statistics, what can people do to protect their children?
Criminals exist in all walks of life and many will slip through the cracks. It’s the sad, scary truth. Not every child can be protected. But hopefully the public outcry surrounding recent coaching sex scandals will
scare the crap out of encourage school administrations to do their homework diligently before hiring any staff member.
Hopefully with every survivor who recounts his or her story, millions of kids and parents alike will listen and learn how to recognize the telltale signs of a predator, preventing them from becoming future victims.
Hopefully this public forum will release survivors from their shame and parents will feel more comfortable having difficult conversations with their children.
From Pee-Wee to the Pros, there are probably a million athletic coaches in this country. The vast, overwhelming majority of those men and women enjoy instilling values and teaching the games they love to kids. It is sad that a few bad apples have managed to spoil the rest of the bunch of such an honorable profession.
To read the disturbing yet fascinating and important Seattle Times article in its entirety, click here: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/news/local/coaches/news/dayone.html
Update - 11:00pm est : Apparently, the NBA read this blog post and got the message, loud and clear, from the media and fans regarding the confusion surrounding the league’s latest collective bargaining agreement offer to the Players Association. Check out a summary of the owners’ latest offer, from the NBA itself… http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/11/14/sports/basketball/20111114-nba-proposals.html?src=tp
I don’t know what to believe anymore.
Billy Hunter and Derek Fisher are fighting. No they’re not.
Players can be sent to the D-League and have their salary dropped to $75k in their first five seasons. Not true.
Players have no idea what is going on and team reps aren’t effective. Yes they are, everybody is informed.
If they players don’t take this deal, the league will stop negotiating. Not true.
Well which is it? What the hell is going on with this lockout?
Chris Sheridan attempts to clear the air in his piece, “Lockout Update: Misinformation Rules,” by exposing allegedly false reports that nobody has bothered to correct (read his entire piece here, it is quite enlightening: http://shar.es/onN4z ).
I say “allegedly” because I don’t know who to believe at this point. It seems like neither side can be trusted, nor have their words taken at face value.
One point of contention is the story about the owners’ right to send players down to the D-league during their first five NBA seasons and drop their salaries to $75,000. This notion had twitter abuzz as fans, media and players alike openly criticized this part of the owners’ latest proposal.
But according to Sheridan, this clause is nowhere to be found in the owners’ current proposal. HUH!?!?!
Sheridan cites a New York Times article by Howard Beck (that includes comments from NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver) in trying to make sense of this nonsense.
From Beck’s story, “These and other concerns filled Twitter timelines on Friday, a day after labor talks concluded. They turned out to be unfounded, speculative or simply false. The D-League is not mentioned anywhere in the seven-page proposal that was delivered to the union on Friday — a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times. Nor are there any measures that could curtail “Bird” rights. While some provisions might crimp the N.B.A.’s middle class, others could boost it. In the absence of official documentation — neither the league nor the union released the proposal publicly — the rumors have prevailed.”
I’m at the point of becoming a nutty conspiracy theorist. Since the documents have not been made public, how can the New York Times be positive they have the actual proposal given to the players?
Meanwhile, some players are skeptical of the owners’ alleged need to split basketball related income 50-50. Months ago, NBA Commissioner David Stern said that 22 of the 30 teams in the league were losing a combined $300 million.
Check out this tweet from Omri Casspi of the Cleveland Cavaliers:
@Casspi18 : I have a question! I wasn’t really involve in all the talks between the Nba and the players… My question is…If the NBA claim loses of 300mil dollars, why they aren’t opening the books to the players and letting us see it?
Casspi is saying quite a bit in this tweet. First of all, the union has representatives for a reason, but I get the feeling A LOT of players are in the dark and don’t know any more about the situation than the public does.
Casspi went on to tweet about his desire for union decertification as well as the public relations mess caused by the lockout:
@Casspi18: It’s sounds like we are the bad guys here after we agreed to 50/50 which means 2.8 billion dollars to the owners in the course of 10 years.
I’m pretty close to giving up on this situation considering I can’t believe any of the information, rhetoric or gossip coming from either side. I wish the mediator (who has been present during some of the negotiations) could disseminate information to the public so we could trust somebody, anybody to tell us the truth.
In the mean time, thousands of working and middle class families are without paychecks as the lockout not only keeps players off the court, but leaves every day employees struggling to stay above water.
Kudos to Sheridan for attempting to sort it all out. http://shar.es/onN4z . Hopefully the league and it’s players will soon do the same.
**In case you were wondering, I went as the “NBA Lockout” for Halloween. Sad, but true.**