Entries in Athlete (6)


Cancer Survivor Mark Herzlich Grateful To Compete in Super Bowl

Scott Cunningham/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- New York Giants’ rookie linebacker Mark Herzlich stepped off the plane in Indianapolis to play against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI and immediately took to Twitter to express his gratitude. He was thankful not just to be there, but to be alive.

“2 yrs ago I was told I might never walk again. Just WALKED off plane in Indy to play in The #SuperBowl. #TakeThatSh*tCancer,” he tweeted.

In 2009, Herzlich was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. The cancer was isolated to his left leg and the initial prognosis was not positive for the promising Boston College football star.

“They felt the NFL was a long shot,” Herzlich’s father, Sandy, told ESPN last summer. “They were first happy if they could save his life and they were happy if they could save his leg.”

Herzlich was told there were three possible outcomes.

“The worst-case scenario is obviously [that] it gets into other parts of your body and it completely kills you,” Herzlich told ESPN. “Second worst-case scenario is if they saw a small fracture in the bone and it was seeping out. Then they would have to amputate my leg right away within hours of finding it out. … Then better than that would be to remove that portion of the leg, putting in a cadaver bone and being in a cast for six months from the waist down, not ever being able to run again.”

It turns out there was a fourth and even better option.

Herzlich responded phenomenally to aggressive chemotherapy and radiation. He was given the choice to forgo surgery and continue treatment, saving his football career, but increasing the likelihood that the cancer could return, or have surgery, ending his football aspirations, but likely eliminating the cancer.

Herzlich decided to keep his dream alive.

After missing the 2009 college football season to undergo treatment, he took the field for Boston College in 2010. He started in all 13 games, but did not catch the eye of NFL scouts and was not drafted.

Herzlich continued training and eventually signed as a free agent with the New York Giants.

Now, one year into his NFL career Herzlich is set to compete at Lucas Oil Stadium in the biggest football game of the year, an opportunity that three years ago seemed nearly impossible.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


New York Football Player Ridge Barden Dies of On-Field Brain Injury

BananaStock/Thinkstock(PHOENIX, N.Y.) -- A teen athlete who collapsed at a football game in Phoenix, N.Y., died of bleeding in the brain unleashed by forceful bodily contact on the field, according to an autopsy released Sunday.

Ridge Barden, 16, toppled onto the field Friday during the third quarter of the game between his Phoenix High School and Homer High School, reported ABC's Syracuse, N.Y., affiliate, WSYR-TV, which has read the autopsy report. It has not been officially released.

"It's still shocking. He was with us and now he's gone," his mother, Jacqueline Barden, told WSYR-TV.

Her 230-pound, sports-loving son's accidental death, nonetheless, amplifies the acknowledged challenges of safeguarding the health of student athletes nationwide.

Head injuries have attracted a singular attention of late. New York State lawmakers, for example, approved a Concussion Management Awareness Act this year. For every school district, it mandates concussion management teams comprised of sports staff, health, and other professionals.

The Florida High School Athletics Association, as another example, has ordered new rules aimed at keeping athletes suspected of having endured a concussion from returning to play without a doctor's formal clearance.

Members of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association, by law, must implement policies to minimize brain injuries, including concussion awareness training.

Barden said her child, who had been playing sports since Little League, had no pre-existing medical problems.

Stunned by his collapse, the lineman's teammates encircled him as soon after he fell onto the field, following what was reported as an especially hard hit by one of his team's opponents.

Trainers and coaches rushed over to find him talking, able to roll over on his back by himself and sit up, said Phoenix School District Superintendent Judy Belfield. Still, he complained of a severe headache and buckled again when he tried to stand, she said.

An outpouring of grief, condolences and support for his family has spread online. "R.I.P. Ridge Barden," reads a Facebook page.

His grieving mother told WSYR-TV she hopes no one feels he is fault in this tragedy. Ridge, she said, "would feel the same way."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Mississippi High School Football Player Collapses in Game, Dies

Thomas Northcut/Thinkstock(GAUTIER, Miss.) -- A Mississippi high school football player died Friday night after he collapsed on the field and could not be revived, making him at least the seventh high school athlete to die since the start of football season last month.

Latrell Dunbar, a junior fullback for D’Iberville High School, fell to the ground after blocking a play in the third quarter of the school’s game in Gautier, said ABC News affiliate WLOX-TV in Mississippi.

Trainers rushed onto the field and applied mouth-to-mouth breathing, working frantically to revive him for the 15 minutes it took for an ambulance to arrive at the game.  Dunbar was then taken to Ocean Springs Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 10:20 p.m.

Jackson County Coroner Vicki Broadus said Saturday that Dunbar died of an acute cardiac event, which can be caused by hidden heart abnormalities.  In this case, though, according to WLOX, she said it was a fluke event.

This season appears to be tied for the second most lethal summer for young football players, according to records compiled by the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research.  There were eight deaths in 1970, according to the center’s records.

From 1980 to 1984, an average of one high school football player died each year during the summer practice season.  But the death rate has roughly tripled to 2.8 deaths per year since then, according to a study released in July by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Rafael Nadal's Risky Pain Relief at Wimbledon

Comstock/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- Gone are the days of secret locker room injections given on the sly to hurt athletes.  Since injuring his heel earlier this week, tennis pro Rafael Nadal has made no attempt to hide the fact that he is numbing his injury so that he can keep playing through the Wimbledon semifinals, despite the risk of further injury.

"My foot is not fine, but we are in quarter finals of Wimbledon, so it is an emergency.  I have to play," the Spanish tennis player said at a Wimbledon press conference Wednesday.  "We decided to [anesthetize] a little bit the zone of the foot to play the rest of the tournament."

Nadal slipped and hurt his foot on the court during his match against Juan Martin del Potro Monday, but this has not stopped him from advancing to the Wimbledon semifinals.

"Basically, when he twisted his foot, he put stress on the peroneal tendon on the side of your leg.  They're injecting lidocaine around the tendon to reduce the inflammation for each match so he doesn't feel the swelling," says Dr. Jennifer Solomon, an assistant attending physiatrist at New York's Hospital for Special Surgery, who also serves as a team physician for the United States Tennis Association.

Though traditional wisdom dictates that an athlete should not continue playing on this type of injury and risk doing further or permanent damage, anesthetizing the pain long enough to allow a player to finish the game, or in this case, tournament, has become a common, if sometimes clandestine, practice among some professional athletes.

"I'm surprised they're telling the public.  It's frowned upon in sports medicine in general because you can get further injury when you're not aware of what's happening in the area.  Pain is a protective sensation, and without it you might do more damage," says Dr. Lyle Micheli, director of the division of Sports Medicine at Children's Hospital in Boston.

Normally, one would use oral painkillers, lidocaine patches on the injury site and ice to get someone through a competition, he says.  Because these methods allow a player to still sense the pain, they will know not to overdo it.

Nadal, however, says, that when he's undergoing treatment, he doesn't feel anything for five hours, which makes the chance for further injury higher, according to medical experts.

"The injection itself isn't a problem, but playing through an injury when he can't feel the pain at all, he risks restressing his tendon and [that can] lead to other problems, so you have to be careful," says Solomon.

But for a professional athlete who receives excellent medical care, the risk is minimized.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Four Hundred-Pound Marathoner Finds Strength in Size

John Foxx/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- Growing up in Idaho, Kelly Gneiting dreamed of running a marathon.  But his weight, which reached 245 pounds in college, pushed him towards football and wrestling, instead.

"I've always considered myself kind of an anomaly of an athlete as a big person," said Gneiting, who now weighs 400 pounds.

An athlete indeed, Gneiting is a three-time national champion sumo wrestler.

"Even though I'm big, I pride myself on being strong and tough," Gneiting said.

On Sunday, after only four months of training, Gneiting finished the Los Angeles marathon -- his second marathon in three years.

"When you do something once, people can think it's a fluke," Gneiting said.  "But when you do it twice, hopefully you convince people that you're just that person."

Gneiting set out to inspire heavy people to break down the barriers that stand between them and their dreams.  But in the process he appears to have also broken the Guinness World Record for heaviest marathoner, finishing the 26-mile course in nine hours, 48 minutes and 52 seconds.

"I told myself, 'Even if I have to crawl, I'll do whatever it takes,'" Gneiting said.  "I wanted to prove I was tougher than the road."

After his first marathon in 2008, Gneiting pledged never to do it again.  But on Sunday he shaved two hours off his time, despite heavy rain.

"The bottoms of my feet looked like white hamburger," he said.  "There was a few times when a blister would burst and I'd feel it, and it just about caused me to collapse.  And then I'd think, 'Oh my gosh, I still have six miles.'"

Gneiting, who works as a statistician at Fort Defiance Indian Hospital in Arizona, said he wishes he was smaller but refuses to let his weight hold him back.

"I certainly don't like being this big, but to me it's unacceptable to have low self-esteem," he told ABC News.´╗┐

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Fran Crippen Death: Likely Heat Stroke or Heart

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Doctors may never know precisely what killed open water swimmer Fran Crippen, the 26-year-old who died during a race in Abu Dhabi over the weekend, but they agree that strenuous exercise in hot water could result in fatal heat stroke.

Had a safety boat been near the elite swimmer when he lost consciousness, he might have been cooled down and been saved, they say.

"It's pretty straightforward -- he died of one of two things," said Dr. Mark Morocco, associate professor of emergency medicine at the UCLA School of Medicine.

"He drowned of a cardiac arrhythmia or he died of drowning because he passed out," said Morocco, who has never treated Crippen. "Both were directly related to over-exertion, which is a terrible garbage-can diagnosis and does not speak to what happened."

"In the age of kayaks, jet skis and outboard motors, this sort of thing should never happen to an elite swimmer," he said. "No one was there to help him up out of the water."

USA Swimming said Monday it would commission a full, independent investigation into Crippen's death.

Some earlier reports indicated that the Olympic-bound athlete died of a heart attack. The findings of an autopsy by local authorities have not been released, and even that may not give definitive answers.

Heat stroke, for example, could only be determined if doctors got an internal body temperature right after Crippen died. His body wasn't found until two hours after the race ended -- about 400 meters from the finish line.

The International Swimming Federation (FINA) said doctors ruled the cause of death as severe fatigue.

Crippen's sister Maddy, herself an Olympic swimmer, told ABC News that her brother had been voicing concerns for months about inadequate safety.

Crippen had told Shoulberg just 12 hours before the race that the outside temperature was 100 degrees and that the water was 87 degrees. Several swimmers complained of dehydration and disorientation and three were taken to the hospital.

"l have heard lot people complaining about the water being too warm," said Bill Volckening, a former editor of Swimmer magazine for U.S. Masters swimming. "There are some dangers of hyperthermia that have not really come to light yet and I hope there is some major reform in the sport of open water swimming with regard to safety."

Those who trained with Crippen said he also used GU energy gel, a replenishing liquid that contains high amounts of caffeine. The swimmer reportedly consumed 10 to 15 packs during a typical two-hour swim.

Doctors say, however, that caffeine is generally "pretty safe."

"It's probably not that likely, but certainly a possible factor in the picture," said Morocco. "Caffeine can cause arrhythmias in sensitive individuals."

The more likely cause of death was hyperthermia, which led to heat stroke.

"During physical exertion as the muscles are working, part of the byproducts is heat, like a power plant," said Dr. Ted Benzer, chief of clinical operations in the emergency department and attending physician at Massachusetts General Hospital.

"The challenge is to get rid of the heat and the body doesn't have that many ways to do that," he said. "The human body underwater is not like a fish or a whale. The primary way it releases heat is through evaporative losses like sweating."

Sweat on the surface of the body creates a cooling effect on blood just under the skin. Unlike a dog, humans can't pant to get rid of the heat.

"It is an intriguing concern that [Crippen] had major exertion submersed under very hot water," said Benzer. "But this is very unusual -- I have never seen this in all the years I have worked in emergency medicine."

When the body's temperature reaches 106 to 107 degrees, it starts to cause death of tissue and organ failure.

One of the first warning signs is confusion and delirium as the brain begins to dysfunction. If not treated by cooling the body down, it can cause death.

"It's hard to say what happened," said Benzer. "Who knows who was watching and how closely. Basically, he may have become confused and his actions might have been unpredictable. Maybe he started getting heat stroke, was delirious and then drowned."

However, doctors say there are other conditions that can cause sudden death in a young athlete -- heart valve problems, an electrolyte imbalance, congenital thickening of the heart muscle, cerebral aneurysms and even undetected arrhythmias like long QT syndrome.

UCLA's Morocco agrees that many of those medical events could have been treated had there been more attention paid to safety.

"A lot of the responsibility is on the folks who put the race together," he said. "When you are 500 feet in the water, you are as far away as being in wilderness 20 miles in Yosemite. If you don't have someone in a rescue boat, you are in trouble. Anything can happen."

"The other problem is elite athletes are not very good patients," said Morocco. "They don't want to get out of the race, even if they feel poorly. They are well-trained, but are also pressured to perform. Oftentimes a great athlete cannot advocate for himself. But those running the race should advocate for him."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio´╗┐

ABC News Radio