NFL May Have Missed Adams’ Heart Condition

January 20th, 2010

Sunday’s news of the death of former Bucs first round pick Gaines Adams still stings for a variety of reasons.

One of the questions lingering is why or how doctors, acting on the behalf of the NFL, the Bucs or the Bears could have missed Adams’ enlarged heart in various physicals. It was a cardiac arrest due to an enlarged heart that caused Adams’ death, both an initial and secondary autopsy revealed.

Adams went through a physical when he was traded to Chicago earlier this season and allegedly went through another physical at season’s end.

Melissa Isaacson, of, writes that, in fact, the NFL does heart tests on players entering the draft, but the tests do not always include monitoring the size of a player’s heart.

As part of the collective bargaining agreement, every NFL player undergoes an annual physical exam that includes an electrocardiagram (EKG) to detect heart abnormalities, typically during the May minicamp. But stress testing and an echocardiogram — an ultrasound which allows the doctor to study the size of the heart and strength of the heart muscle, but is also more costly — are typically only done if abnormalities are detected in the EKG.

“Over the last 25 years, the NFL has been doing EKGs when players are drafted and specifically looking for issues [such as HCM],” said Dr. Christine Lawless, on the faculty of the University of Chicago and certified in both cardiology and sports medicine. “It will be interesting to see if when [Adams] went through [the NFL draft] in 2007, whether an echocardiogram was done? This is the general NFL approach … it may provide some clue as to what happened to Adams.”

The Bears cannot comment on Adams’ physical at the time of his trade from Tampa in October because of the HIPAA privacy rule, but again commenting in general terms, Bonow said that typically a condition such as HCM would have not developed over the course of only a few months.

In Joe’s eyes, with apologies for sounding callous, as much money as NFL teams have invested in players, it seems silly not to have players undergo the most thorough of physical examinations, including checking for enlarged hearts.

If enlarged hearts are due, in part, to such strenuous physical activity, NFL teams (as well as colleges) are morally obligated to confirm they are not indirectly putting players’ lives at risk.

3 Responses to “NFL May Have Missed Adams’ Heart Condition”

  1. JTHV Says:

    Halfway into Joe’s post I was thinking the exact thing. Yea what nonsense!

    Seriously, this league and others like it pay out sometimes triple-digit game checks (that’s hundreds of thousands for those still in community college… j/k).

    How can the cost of health inspection at the maximum satisfaction for become an expense to steep to burden?

    I wonder if the NFL really does rather send teams to play in Mexico City and London, than go all out and support these “unnecessary” med bills.

  2. Tampa Edski Says:

    Follow the $… :-\

  3. Joe Says:

    Edski! Long time no chat. Glad you could drop by.