"The Legacy Of Wes Leonard"
February 15, 2012 11:09 AM   Subscribe

In Italy they do cardiological examinations of youth prior to allowing them to play sports; doing that here would potentially save a few lives since heart defects would be caught and treated in a timely manner.
posted by Renoroc at 11:29 AM on February 15, 2012

Agreed. One of the stars of my local hockey team in high-school, same age as me, dropped dead during a game when his heart gave out.
posted by mannequito at 11:38 AM on February 15, 2012

I played serious sports for a good twelve years. Football, hockey, tennis, swimming, skiing, baseball. Nobody every died.

This kind of thing is exceptionally tragic but it's also exceptionally rare.
posted by philip-random at 11:49 AM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

In theory, most high schools do require a physical exam by a doctor. Whether such an exam would find these defects, I don't know.

You see from time to time this happening at the college level as well in various sports.

All that said, I think the article was touching about the two players, their bonds and the backstory.
posted by k5.user at 12:01 PM on February 15, 2012

I remember when hearing about a kid at a local school who died of an aneurysm during summer football camp or whatever.

I kinda regret my jock-hate and lack of empathy, especially that I directed it towards my girlfriend that liked him (not sure if they were really friends or whatever). I was following my fellow skater friend's antipathy (he went to that school, I was at another).

But yeah, it makes me think of "Jock O Rama" (funny I'm listening to that album now) with the line about the football playing kid who won't walk again...
posted by symbioid at 12:09 PM on February 15, 2012

What is required is more than a standard physical exam (turn and cough; good boy).

Baseline electrocardiograms can often pick up subtle conduction system changes that may indicate a risk for arrhythmia.

I agree that sudden death in the athlete is rare; but I think it would matter a lot to the kid and his/her family if he got urgent health.
posted by Renoroc at 12:23 PM on February 15, 2012

From page five of the article:
Hearts, like bridges, can be inspected to prevent failure. But the issue is less simple than it sounds. Heart examinations come in several forms. The cheapest and most common, the electrocardiogram, can detect one set of problems and miss a second set and even falsely diagnose a third. If Wes Leonard had taken an electrocardiogram on the day of his last game, it might have found nothing wrong. Other tests exist—the echocardiogram, the cardiac MRI—but they're expensive and less practical to administer on a massive scale.
posted by Madamina at 12:25 PM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

In 2005, Detroit Red Wing Jiri Fischer collapsed on the bench and was revived with the help of an AED. He had to give up hockey, but part of his charitable work is getting AEDs placed.

The most tragic part of this story for me was that the high school had one and had neglected to have it in working condition.
posted by stevis23 at 12:45 PM on February 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

I guess where I'm coming from is ... yes, you want all relevant emergency gear (and trained personnel) on hand when our young folk are exerting themselves. To go a further step and run extensive heart tests on all athletes before all games and workouts just doesn't feel rational (the perfect being the enemy of the good and all that).

Of course, try to explain this to a family whose kid has just died due to an ailment that an echocardiogram could have found.
posted by philip-random at 12:55 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

That was an incredible story.

Excuse me, I think I have some dust in my eye.
posted by hootenatty at 12:58 PM on February 15, 2012

I hadn't heard this story; poor bloody kid.

One Ajax player collapsed with a heart attack when playing a game with the junior team a year or so ago, but fortunately he got better and is still playing professional football.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:48 PM on February 15, 2012

Jesus, that made me cry.
posted by rtha at 2:19 PM on February 15, 2012

I don't want to take away from the story but it feels almost too intimate to the point of voyeurism & emotional manipulation. I just don't see the necessity of telling this story, I'd rather everybody involved was given a measure of privacy rather than have all their details exposed for no cause beyond more eyeballs on the publisher's website.
posted by scalefree at 3:09 PM on February 15, 2012

In Italy they do cardiological examinations of youth prior to allowing them to play sports; doing that here would potentially save a few lives

It might, but the additional cost might just cause schools to curtail sports programs or limit the number of slots for players, leading to more obese kids who have lifelong problems and probably end up dying of heart problems at an earlier age. Yes, athletic sports can be dangerous, but except for very extreme sports it's a danger that most medical advisory bodies seem to think is outweighed by the benefits. Erecting new barriers to participation in a culture that already prefers to keep kids indoors and sedentary (safe!) doesn't strike me as an unqualified good.

Nothing comes without a cost, and one must always be aware of unintended consequences even if the intent is good originally.
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:09 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Wow, that's sad. I have a friend who's dad has a cardiac... thing at a hotel. The hotel happened to have one of those easy-to-use defibrillators, and they used it on him. They're kind of amazing, they can save someone's life and basically they're so easy to use almost anyone can figure out how to use one.

Here's the thing. Outside of a hospital the survival rate was like 3%. So if it hadn't been for the AED he probably would have died.

So I'm guessing this kid would have lived if they'd had one. Tragic.
posted by delmoi at 4:08 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

The tragedy is that they had an AED. But students would mess with it, they put it in a storage room and apparently never did the tests or made sure it was properly maintained and charged.

Someone just didn't follow up on it.
posted by mephron at 4:36 PM on February 15, 2012

There was a working AED in a nearby building, but nobody thought to get it. "It probably would have taken three or four minutes to run there and get it," Weeldreyer said.
posted by merelyglib at 4:54 PM on February 15, 2012

From the article linked above:

""He was dizzy once," Jocelyn says, "when he got off the couch and I said, 'I think you have been texting too long. I think that tells me you need to quit texting. Your eyes are down too long and you need to go eat a banana. Just make sure your potassium is good.'

"I didn't take him to the cardiologist. One of the signs is dizziness. I didn't know that."

Two weeks before he died, Wes took a nap on a Sunday, which was unusual. "Being tired is a warning sign," she says. "But who is not tired in the middle of an undefeated season? You are 16-0 at that point. That was my warning. That's all. That's it.""

That kind of second-guessing is a horrible, soul-sucking thing. I'm glad she started the Foundation and I hope she finds some solace in training others and working to get AED's in places that need them.
posted by merelyglib at 5:26 PM on February 15, 2012

Win one for the Gipper.

That story is a monument to the cliche and contains everything I find loathsome about both sports and sportswriting.
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:09 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sorry but I couldn't get past the first paragraph. Its just so terribly written.

Really though how many people die of these sorts of issues? c.f. post on NYC drivers killing pedestrians and cyclists.
posted by mary8nne at 5:54 AM on February 16, 2012

I don't understand. If fewer than n people die of something, then...you don't have to care? It shouldn't be on the blue?
posted by rtha at 8:21 AM on February 16, 2012

rtha: "I don't understand. If fewer than n people die of something, then...you don't have to care? It shouldn't be on the blue?"

If fewer than n people die, it may not be reasonable to suggest implementing a solution with cost and logistical hurdles so high that it probably couldn't be implemented at all.

Also, no one has to care about anything they don't care about.
posted by that's candlepin at 8:53 AM on February 16, 2012

Agreed on both points. I didn't understand what point mary8nne was making (and I'm still not sure I do, not that it matters), which is why I made that comment. The article itself points out that diagnosing this condition is difficult and expensive and implementing widescale screening would be impractical for a number of reasons, after all - but mary8nne only read the first 'graf, and so probably missed that.
posted by rtha at 9:43 AM on February 16, 2012

Gotcha. Thought you were asking a broader question.
posted by that's candlepin at 1:20 PM on February 16, 2012

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