Millions of Americans filled out their brackets and hoped that their team would survive on the Road to the Final Four. However, for some players, survival takes on a whole new meaning. A recent study published by the American Heart Association shows that 1 out of every 3,100 NCAA Division I male basketball players is at risk of dying from sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). Simon’s Fund, a Philadelphia based organization, is trying to reduce that risk providing a free heart screening for over 300 students in an Atlanta suburb on Sunday.
Wichita State Has Firsthand Experience with Heart Conditions
Guy Alang-Ntang was recruited by the Shockers in 2008. He would have graduated last year, and with a little good fortune, played in the NBA. Instead, Alang-Ntang dropped dead of an undetected heart condition during a pick up basketball game months before starting at Wichita State. Coach Gregg Marshall was there the night he collapsed and died.
Around the same time, Carl Hall, a senior forward for the Shockers, was told that his basketball career was over because he kept fainting during competition — the primary warning sign of SCA. He took two years off from basketball, and in 2009, was prescribed medication to control his heart condition. He made his way to Wichita State in 2011 and on Saturday night, he will lead the Shockers in their first Final Four appearance since 1965.
“Watching Carl Hall play in the Final Four inspires us to continue to raise awareness about the importance of heart screenings for student athletes,” says Darren Sudman, Executive Director of Simon’s Fund, who lost his son Simon to SCA. “The big difference between Alang-Ntang and Hall is that Hall got his heart checked and treated. That’s why he’s here playing.”
Local Atlanta Community Shocked by Sudden Death of Two Promising Basketball Players
Last year, in a suburb of Atlanta, Buford High School junior, Adam Smith, and Buford Middle School student, Jeremy Nelson, died from SCA. They were both basketball standouts. Both may have been on the road to the Final Four. SCA ended their journeys.
On April 7, 2013, Simon’s Fund, working with the Cardiovascular Group in Lawrenceville, GA, will provide over 300 free heart screenings to students from the Buford and Gwinnett County School Districts. In its eight- year history, Simon’s Fund has provided free heart screenings to 5,500 students. One out of every 100 students checked discovers a heart condition.
At the screening, every student completes a medical history, has vital signs checked, and receives an ECG – a painless, non-invasive test that takes a couple of minutes. The ECG will be evaluated by local cardiologists. Some students will receive an echocardiogram.
“As coaches, we spend so much time preparing our players, because we don’t we don’t to lose a game. We need to focus on sudden cardiac arrest, because losing a student athlete is much worse,” said Phil Martelli, men’s basketball coach of the St. Joseph’s University Hawks and First Vice President of the National Association of Basketball Coaches, which is meeting in Atlanta during the Final Four.