If this is your first visit, be sure to check out the FAQ in HCMA Announcements. You may have to register before you can post: click the register link above to proceed. To start viewing messages, select the forum that you want to visit from the selection below. Your Participation in this message board is strictly voluntary. Information and comments on the message board do not necessarily reflect the feelings, opinions, or positions of the Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Association. At no time should participants to this board substitute information within for individual medical advice. The Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Association shall not be liable for any information provided herein. All participants in this board should conduct themselves in a professional and respectful manner. Failure to do so will result in suspension or termination. The moderators of the message board working with the HCMA will be responsible for notifying participants if they have violated the rules of conduct for the board. Moderators or HCMA staff may edit any post to ensure it conforms with the rules of the board or may delete it. This community is welcoming to all those with HCM we ask that you remember each user comes to the board with information and a point of view that may differ from that which you hold, respect is critical, please post respectfully. Thank you


No announcement yet.

In the wake of Oregon State football player Fred Thompson's death


About the Author


Lisa Salberg Find out more about Lisa Salberg
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • In the wake of Oregon State football player Fred Thompson's death

    Lisa Salberg, the founder and chief executive officer of the Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Association, gets frustrated when yet another young athlete dies unexpectedly, as Oregon State football player Fred Thompson did on Dec. 7.

    "The community says, 'oh my goodness, what happened?' and everyone pays attention for about two weeks and then they go on with their life,'' said Salberg, who has made educating people about HCM (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy) her life's work.

    "The story isn't being carried forward,'' said Salberg, who was diagnosed with HCM at age 12.

    "We're letting kids die, and it makes you want to scream.''

    Medical journals say HCM is marked by “an excessive thickening of the heart muscle that can lead to an irregular heart rhythm called ventricular fibrillation. During ventricular fibrillation, numerous chaotic discharges to the chamber of the heart result in no blood being pumped.’’

    Thompson, 19, collapsed and died during a pick-up basketball game at the Dixon Rec Center on the OSU campus, another victim of HCM, or enlarged heart - a major cause of death among young athletes who seem completely healthy but often die during heavy exercise.

    In November, Arkansas tight end Garrett Uekman, 19, died of enlarged heart.

    Closer to home, Dallas High School heavyweight wrestler Charley Engelfried, 17, died of the same condition moments after pinning his opponent in a match last February.

    Last year, Central Catholic running back Hayward Demison III collapsed after a long touchdown run and his heart stopped for two minutes.

    Demison III (who had a coronary artery anomaly, not HCM) survived, and returned to the football field this year, but after his son's close call his father called for mandatory heart screenings for all high school athletes.

    In 2005, Central Catholic guard David Heller, 17, died in his sleep after playing a high school basketball game.

    Heller did have HCM, and there is now a David Heller Foundation which helps sponsor free screenings.

    Bev Heller, David's mom, said reading about Fred Thompson's passing hit hard. "We keep thinking, you know what, why isn't this being taken more seriously?'' she said. "How many kids have to die before we say, 'we should be screening?' "

    Bev Heller said she and her husband Jeff (the former Univ. of Portland basketball player) miss their son every day, but they are also proud of what has David's foundation has accomplished, helping hundreds of youngsters between the ages of 13 and 19.

    "We decided David's legacy needs to live on,'' she said. "We couldn't help him, but we're going to help other kids and that's a way to make sure David's life was not in vain.''

    Salberg said HCM commanded national attention when high-profile athletes such as the Boston Celtics' Reggie Lewis and college star Hank Gathers died of enlarged heart, but not for very long - and 21 years after Gathers' sudden death in a gym at Loyola Marymount University, testing for rare heart conditions at the high school and college level remain largely inadequate.

    What happened at Oregon State brought the spotlight on HCM once again. After performing an autopsy on Fred Thompson, state medical examiner Karen Gunson said she doubted Oregon State medical staff could have done anything more to prevent what happened.

    RILEY AT FUNERAL.jpgAP photoOSU coach Mike Riley said Fred Thompson's memorial service last weekend at Oakland Tech was at once heartbreaking and beautifully done. He said there was a lot of love on that football field for the Beavers' defensive tackle
    Gunson also made the observation that even if emergency medical personnel had been standing watch at Dixon Rec on that Wednesday evening, it is doubtful Thompson would have survived.

    Some physicians say that statement is debatable, because there is no way of saying with 100 percent certainty immediate CPR and the use of a defibrillator would not have saved Thompson’s life.

    Salberg, who hasn't seen the Fred Thompson autopsy report, said if there were mistakes made at Oregon State they probably went back to Thompson's initial physical exam when he joined the program.

    High school and college athletes are routinely checked over by a physician before they are cleared to play football. But a routine exam wouldn't pick up signs of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

    Salberg said the key issue with Thompson would have been family history. If Fred Thompson Sr. died of a heart attack when Fred Jr. was in ninth grade at Oakland Tech in the Bay Area, Salberg said that should have sent off warning bells.

    "He should have been screened in the ninth grade, after his father died,'' said Salberg.

    "That was the moment. He should have been in for a cardiac evaluation, and not just in a gym, a full exam by a cardiologist.''

    Salberg went further. "Shame on Oregon State if it knew about that family history and didn't require him to be screened. He (Thompson) should have had a full cardiac consult.''

    Oregon State has declined to comment on the specifics of Thompson's prior medical care, so it is unknown how thoroughly he was screened for a possible heart condition.

    Salberg isn't accusing Oregon State of negligence, just pointing out that a thorough screening might have caught something.

    There seems to be different opinions on how effective even more involved screening is in detecting HCM.

    Salberg wants schools to educate athletes when they enter the system, to let them know what the signs and symptoms of HCM are, let them know how important it is to tell medical professionals if there is a family history of heart problems.

    "It starts with education,'' said Salberg, "and if there is a family history or signs and symptoms, then additional testing (electrocardiogram, echocardiogram, stress test, MRI, etc.) is needed.

    "Once you get programs instituted - and it doesn't take that much effort to do this - then you will see meaningful change happen and you don't have to wait for something else to happen. And you have to expect (the athletes) to tell you the truth, which doesn't always happen with this demographic.''

    Meaning, some athletes might not tell a doctor they were experiencing a racing heart, or shortness of breath, or chest pains for fear they wouldn't be allowed to play.

    “The first step is truth and honesty from the athletes,’’ said Salberg.

    James Kyser, a doctor at the Children’s Cardiac Center of Oregon, has worked with the families of both David Heller and Hayward Demison III and said there are inherent issues with the typical high school athlete physical exam.

    “The questions they ask on those forms are very good, the problem is many of the athletes and parents don’t take it seriously,’’ said Kyser.

    “They’ll go anywhere to get the exam done and they want to get it over with as quickly as possible.

    “The other problem is, there’s some tests that can help with the screening process but they we’re getting into cost issues. Adding a EKG (electrocardiogram) is helpful but it’s more complementary information. The most definitive test to see if somebody has a heart condition is an echocardiogram which is more costly and more labor intensive.’’

    While the echocardiogram may be cost-prohibitive at many colleges – and out of the question during a typical high school physical exam – there is a simple ‘squat test’ that can be effective in screening for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, according to Kyser.

    A physican listens to the patient’s heart along the left border of the heart with the patient standing. The patient then squads while while the examiner continues to listen. The patient’s heart rate initially slows down, then resumes its normal rate. The patient is then asked to stand back up, at which point the heart reflexively speeds back up.

    If at that instant one hearts a murmur, the patient may have HCM, and should be referred to a cardiologist for an echocardiogram.

    Kyser said that when he gives talks to pediatricians, medical students and residents about HCM he encourages them to use the squatting to standing physical exam technique.

    “It’s a pretty good screening tool,’’ said Kyser.

    During team cardiac screenings, Kyser said it’s interesting that he will ask the same questions that are contained on the Oregon Schools Activity Association forms that parents and athletes fill out, “and many times we get a different answer. They have a much more difficult time not being straightforward (during face to face questioning).’’

    Kyser said, “we hear these stories (of prior history) after the event and obviously, that’s too late. The emphasis has to be on the responsibility of the family to come in prepared (to answer questions truthfully) and take the questionaires seriously. Some kids won’t answer (if there are symptoms) and they’ll shop around until somebody clears them and that defeats the purpose.’’

    Kyser said hearing a heart murmur during testing, “is a very big red flag. The goal is to catch these kids before a sudden death event. It is the No. 1 cause of death of among (seemingly) healthy young athletes (a sudden death event related to the heart).’’

    Salberg said it seems sudden death in the young because of a heart event only gets attention when an athlete is involved.

    “The scary part is, the non-athlete is far more likely to die than the athlete,’’ said Salberg.

    “We can do a lot better than we’re doing,’’ to get the word out, she says.
    Knowledge is power ... Stay informed!
    YOU can make a difference - all you have to do is try!

    Dx age 12 current age 46 and counting!
    lost: 5 family members to HCM (SCD, Stroke, CHF)
    Others diagnosed living with HCM (or gene +) include - daughter, niece, nephew, cousin, sister and many many friends!
    Therapy - ICD (implanted 97, 01, 04 and 11, medication
    Currently not obstructed
    Complications - unnecessary pacemaker and stroke (unrelated to each other)

  • #2
    Re: In the wake of Oregon State football player Fred Thompson's death

    Salberg said adequate testing for the kind of heart condition that killed Fred Thompson might cost a football program, “about an extra $1,000 per athlete. You and I might not think that’s a lot of money, but multiply that by 100 athletes and it starts to build up. There is financial incentive (for a school not to do more advanced testing) plus you look at the fact an EKG is going to be wrong about a third of the time.’’

    Salberg said the squat test, “doesn’t catch it 100 percent, but it catches it a lot more. … are we going to catch everybody with that? No, we’re not. But philosophically we’re going to get a lot closer to identifying more people (who have enlarged heart).’’

    Salberg founded the Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Association in 1996 as a national resource and support center for families affected by HCM and the organization has an active membership of over 4,200 families. The HCMA’s informational website serves an estimated 200,000 people each year.

    Salberg said there is currently a bill before congress that will help help educate people about HCM, the ‘‘Cardiomyopathy Health Education, Awareness, Risk Assessment, and Training in the Schools (HEARTS) Act of 2011.’’

    - Paul Buker (also on Twitter)
    Knowledge is power ... Stay informed!
    YOU can make a difference - all you have to do is try!

    Dx age 12 current age 46 and counting!
    lost: 5 family members to HCM (SCD, Stroke, CHF)
    Others diagnosed living with HCM (or gene +) include - daughter, niece, nephew, cousin, sister and many many friends!
    Therapy - ICD (implanted 97, 01, 04 and 11, medication
    Currently not obstructed
    Complications - unnecessary pacemaker and stroke (unrelated to each other)