We’re With You, Austin Hatch

Posted by jstevrtc on June 27th, 2011

At some point today, in the attempt to bring him out of a medically-induced coma, doctors will reduce the sedating medicine that they’ve been giving Austin Hatch since Friday. Hatch, a rising junior at Fort Wayne, Indiana’s Canterbury High, committed a couple of weeks ago to play basketball for Michigan starting in the fall of 2013. He suffered a punctured lung, swelling and bruising of his brain, and fractures in his skull, ribs, and collar bone when the single-engine plane piloted by his father went down on Friday near Charlevoix, Michigan. Hatch’s father and stepmother were killed in the crash. Hatch has been kept in the coma by his physicians at a hospital in Traverse City, Michigan since the incident.

Medically induced comas are (unfortunately) frequently used by doctors for several reasons, but the overall philosophy is that the coma gives critically ill patients time to rest and regain strength, and gain full benefit from the care given by the physicians and nurses. When the caretakers think a critical patient is ready, they reduce or remove the medicine that’s keeping the patient asleep, and then see how they do as they wake up. Obviously we don’t know the specifics of Hatch’s case, but depending on the medicine used for sedation, it doesn’t take long to figure out how a patient in this situation is going to do; we’re talking a few minutes up to a few hours. Even so, because of the understandable measure of caution that comes with reporting news of this nature, we wouldn’t expect an update of Hatch’s condition to be made public until the next day at the earliest. As soon as we see reliable accounts become available, we’ll have something up here or we’ll put something out over Twitter.

It hardly seems believable, but if Hatch does well off of sedation, there is another matter: remember, this is his second plane crash. He lost his mother and two siblings in a crash in 2003. Friday’s crash cost him his father and his stepmother. He doesn’t know it yet. Not only does he have to fight for his life today, but if he succeeds, he’ll have to be told about what happened to the rest of his family. It’s unspeakable.

Austin, we’re all praying things work out for you today, and that you’ll find at least some comfort in all the teammates, coaches, classmates and friends who have traveled to the hospital to be with you as you recover. The entirety of the college basketball world is behind you.

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Study: D1 Men’s Basketball Players At Highest Risk For Sudden Cardiac Death

Posted by jstevrtc on April 29th, 2011

A study published earlier this month in the American Heart Association journal Circulation has found that Division I men’s basketball players are at the highest risk among all college athletes for sudden cardiac death (SCD). According to the authors of the study, there is one incident of SCD for every 3,124 men’s college basketball players in Division I per year. This is an alarming number for many reasons, especially when compared to the incidence of SCD among ALL college athletes that was measured at a much less frequent 1 in 43,770 athletes in a given year.

Herb Pope's Sudden Cardiac Arrest Did Not Become a Sudden Cardiac Death Because an AED Was Nearby

If you’re like us, you saw that 1 in 3,124 SCD rate for D-I men’s basketball players and immediately remembered that there are over 4,000 guys playing D-I college hoops each season. That would imply that there are between 1-2 players dying from this each year, or between 10-20 over the last ten years. At first blush, that may seem like an impossibly high rate — how many D-I players over the last ten years can you name who died because their hearts stopped? — but the researchers note in the article that during the five year study period (January 2004 through December 2008), nine players suffered SCD. Their math is unfortunately backed up by what really happened.

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Flu Bug Causes Postponement Of WCU vs UTC

Posted by jstevrtc on February 10th, 2011

Are you going to the Western Carolina vs Chattanooga game tonight?

No, you’re not. Come back on Valentines’ Day, and bring the Purel.

The Southern Conference announced yesterday that Thursday’s game between the Mocs and Catamounts has been postponed because of a flu outbreak on the Chattanooga squad. Four players have tested positive for the disease, and two others are feeling lousy and waiting on results. Because of this team-demic and one player who was to serve a suspension on Thursday night, the Mocs would have been down to just five players.

Keegan Bell Leads the Mocs In Assists, But We Hope Nothing Is Passed To or From Him Over the Next Few Days -- Get Better, Fellas!

The plan is for the sick players to be quarantined for 48 hours and then reevaluated, and the game is rescheduled for February 14th at WCU. Yes, four days from now. Now, we’re not infectious disease experts around here, but it would seem to us that, depending on when some of those six Mocs got sick (Chattanooga lists 12 players on its roster), even if they’re feeling better, they still might be ill or at least shedding virus and therefore able to infect anyone close to them. But the conference must go on, and while UTC (14-11, 10-3, 2nd) has all but secured itself a sweet seed in the upcoming SoCon Tournament, WCU (11-13, 7-5, 5th) needs every win in order to separate itself from a group of teams in the middle of the pack. So the game will be played this Monday, and the ailing Mocs will be pushing the fluids, covering their coughs, and washing their hands like crazy between now and then. Feel better, guys.

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Mike Krzyzewski’s Daughter Recovering Well From Mild Stroke

Posted by jstevrtc on January 31st, 2011

Duke released a statement on Monday night confirming that Debbie Krzyzewski Savarino, the oldest daughter of Mike Krzyzewski, suffered a mild stroke as a result of a vertebral artery dissection “several weeks ago.” She is expected to make a full recovery, according to the short AP article from Yahoo! Sports (linked above) and a more detailed writeup from Durham’s Herald-Sun. Mrs. Savarino, 40,  is in fact already back at work in her position as assistant director of Duke’s Legacy Fund and Director of External Relations for Duke basketball.

Vertebral artery dissection is a leading cause of strokes in younger patients, especially those under 45. If you place your fingers on either side of your neck (gently), you’ll feel the pulse from your carotid artery. The vertebral artery runs right behind and parallel to the carotid, along the vertebrae in the neck, and supplies blood to the brain. Dissection doesn’t mean that the artery opens up and blood empties out into the body, but rather that one of the layers of the artery’s inner lining breaks and blood flows into the wall, causing it to bulge, get trapped, and then clot. The clot obstructs the normal flow of blood through the artery and therefore to the brain, and the patient starts having any of numerous symptoms, like headache, dizziness, loss of coordination, facial droop (we don’t know what Mrs. Savarino’s symptoms were and will not speculate) — in other words, the symptoms people usually associate with a stroke. Obviously all strokes are inherently dangerous, and the possibility of long-term deficits is always there, but patients who experience a stroke caused by vertebral artery dissection often have good outcomes with little or no lingering effects.

Every single person here at RTC extends their prayers and well-wishes for Mrs. Savarino, and we’re elated to read about what sounds like a great prognosis and a full recovery.

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Long Island’s Julian Boyd Back From One-In-Million Diagnosis

Posted by jstevrtc on December 20th, 2010

We’re constantly impressed by the fearlessness shown by athletes in coming back from injuries and medical hurdles, playing as if nothing had ever happened, ignoring that the rolled ankle becomes a little less stable every time it happens, that concussions can have an additive effect over time, that blood sugar levels have to be monitored no matter if it’s during study hall or a time out during an overtime. It’s even more amazing when players play with or through medical issues that 18-22 year-olds, quite frankly, shouldn’t have to deal with, espeically those involving the ticker. After nearly dying twice this past summer from cardiac issues, do you think Seton Hall’s Herb Pope won’t enjoy every snowflake this winter or every fruitcake he gets as a Christmas present, let alone the chance to continue playing basketball?

We Say Bravo That Boyd Is Back For the Blackbirds (Photo: LIU)

In that spirit, check out this AP story from the Wall Street Journal today about the return of Long Island University’s Julian Boyd, who has returned to the court this season after taking a year off. After a freshman campaign that earned him the honor of being named the Northeast Conference’s Rookie of the Year after the 2008-09 season, Boyd began to experience symptoms resembling kidney failure. Tests revealed that he had a congenital (meaning it often occurs while you’re in the womb, no matter the cause) heart condition called noncompaction cardiomyopathy, a disorder in which the muscle in your heart stays soft and spongy during its development, causing it to enlarge and not beat as efficiently as it should.

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Spoonhour Recovering Well After Transplant

Posted by jstevrtc on September 20th, 2010

A while back we mentioned that former Saint Louis, UNLV, and (Southwest) Missouri State head coach Charlie Spoonhour had been diagnosed with a strange and unfortunately progressive lung disease called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, the only real cure for which is a lung transplant. Coach Spoonhour had the transplant in mid-August and is said to be doing well, even able to walk up to a mile during the course of a day.

Good spirits, great family support, and a world-class facility. Our money's on The Spoon.

We know this is not something for which they would be outwardly seeking praise, but it’s certainly worth remembering that it was his friends and fellow coaches Bob Huggins and Mike Krzyzewski who helped get Spoonhour into the Duke Medical Center for diagnosis and treatment of this disease. We again applaud their efforts, and we hope Coach Spoonhour’s recovery continues to go well. We hope we can continue to post nothing but positive reports about this.

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The Spoon Awaits Lung Transplant, But Gets A Nice Assist

Posted by jstevrtc on August 5th, 2010

We first heard about this a week ago (via Curtis Kitchen from 810WHB.com) and saw another mention of it late last night, so we most definitely had to take a minute to send some positive thoughts in the direction of former Missouri State, Saint Louis, and UNLV head coach and 1994 Henry Iba Award winner Charlie Spoonhour.  Coach Spoonhour, 71, was recently diagnosed with a lung disease called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and is currently awaiting a lung transplant at Duke University Medical Center in Durham.

Talk about a heck of an assist, though.  According to this report from St. Louis Today (the online manifestation of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch), a pair of fellow members of the coaching fraternity did a great service to Coach Spoonhour.  The Spoon is an old friend of West Virginia’s Bob Huggins, who called Mike Krzyzewski to help Spoonhour gain admission to DUMC.

As you’ve probably already figured out, there’s no cure for IPF, so the only way to get rid of it is to get some new lungs, or at least one new lung.  As if that weren’t frustrating enough, there’s no specific known cause for the disease (hence “idiopathic”), not even cigarette smoking or chemical exposures, except that it’s almost always seen in people over 50.  In persons with IPF, the lower and side parts of the lungs get gummed up with stuff called collagen, which is actually one of the most prevalent, normally-occurring substances in the body (and yep, it’s similar to the stuff they inject in people’s lips).  Patients start out feeling like they have pneumonia and get short of breath when they exert themselves because their lungs have trouble filling — but then, unlike pneumonia, it doesn’t go away, and the lung doctor eventually finds the disease on deeper investigation.

Anyway, enough pulmonology.  We say bravo to Huggins and Krzyzewski, but most of all we just want a suitable transplant match to be found and for Spoonhour to get through this as well as he can.  Get better, Coach, because we miss seeing and hearing you on the sidelines and the broadcast booth.  We’re all pulling for you!

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On Dean Smith And Memories

Posted by jstevrtc on July 19th, 2010

Over the past couple of weeks we’ve all heard about the memory loss to which former North Carolina coach Dean Smith has fallen victim.  The subject was recently visited in an article that appeared in the Fayetteville Observer earlier this month, and John Feinstein soon followed up with a statement on his site regarding the matter, since he had worked with Smith on what now sounds like a abandoned project that was to be a book about the coach.  The tragic irony — that Dean Smith, the very creator of so many college basketball memories for so many people, is now having trouble remembering parts of them — has been lost on nobody.

Then, over the weekend, Smith’s family sent a letter to his former players via current chief Roy Williams, a letter that served as an update on Smith’s condition, a note of appreciation, and a request for privacy.  There are positives and negatives in the picture that’s painted, and the actual problem that Smith is having isn’t specifically named — on which more in a moment.

The living legend may have some memory problems, but the collective conscience of college basketball does not.

Smith is the second legendary coach we’ve seen in recent times who’s had to deal with a problem of this nature.  Lute Olson, a man who’s face, voice, coaching style, and overall debonair still stand as symbols of Arizona Wildcat basketball, also dealt with issues of a neurological nature.  Back in 2008, Olson underwent profound personality changes in a relatively short period of time, sometimes showing behaviors so inconsistent with his usual self that a subsequent MRI revealed a “previously undiagnosed” stroke as the causative factor.

Do not, however, make the mistake in assuming that Coach Smith’s situation is the same as Coach Olson’s, or that they will follow the same course.  The scenarios are quite different.  Olson’s behavioral change had a specific cause, but there doesn’t seem to be a specific reason cited to account for Smith’s spotty but evidently progressive memory loss.  In Feinstein’s article, he mentions that both he and Coach Smith himself had noticed some changes in Smith in 2005, but that there was also a knee-replacement surgery in 2007 that had complications in the form of “neurological issues.”  The words “Alzheimer’s Disease” have popped up in a couple of places (we are intentionally not linking them here), and while that would fit under the umbrella of what Smith’s family refers to as a “progressive neurocognitive disorder which affects his memory,” there are several other things that fit there, as well.  We haven’t spoken directly to the family, haven’t examined Smith, and have no other data to use, so it might be a little early to make that diagnosis.  There are at least 20 other disorders that could fall under that heading.

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John Wooden In Critical Condition

Posted by nvr1983 on June 3rd, 2010

While most of the basketball world has its eyes firmly fixed on The Staples Center for the Celtics-Lakers match-up in the NBA Finals, the college basketball world will be keeping an eye on UCLA Medical Center where LA news stations are reporting that UCLA‘s legendary coach John Wooden is hospitalized and listed in critical condition. This is by no means the first time that Wooden has been hospitalized in recent years as news sources have listed previous hospital admissions for diverticulitis, a fall, and pneumonia. However, media sources are reporting that the greatest college basketball coach of all-time will most likely not survive this hospital stay. While we won’t speculate too much on Wooden’s condition as a lot of it is up to the choices of Wooden and his family we want to send them our best wishes. We will provide more updates throughout the weekend (or however long Wooden is in the hospital) as we get them.

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Herb Pope Back At Home

Posted by jstevrtc on June 1st, 2010

We alluded to this in today’s Morning Five (see below), and even though it was good to hear he’s predicted to make a full recovery, we were hoping to get even more Herb Pope news sometime soon, especially if it was good.  Today, the AP delivered.  In a story posted this afternoon on the website of the New York Times (insert thunderclap here), we see that that the Seton Hall forward is not just getting better, but that he’s been recuperating at home for a while after a lengthy hospital stay following his collapse back in the last week of April.

Pope led the Big East in glass-cleanin', and should be ready to go for next season. (Jim O'Connell/US Presswire)

According to the article, Pope could begin training soon, and there’s no reason to think he won’t be fit and ready to go for the Pirates next year.  Everybody’s still mum on exactly what caused the collapse, which is understandable — we’re just glad he and his doctors have gotten on top of it.

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