Lewis and Adams: Latest Deaths In Athletes Show Need for Safer Health Measures

Cole ClaybournCorrespondent IJanuary 17, 2010

In less than four days, the sports world was rocked by the deaths of two of its members - both to the same condition.

On Thursday, Southern Indiana forward Jeron Lewis collapsed in a game against Kentucky Wesleyan and later passed away at the age of 21, leaving behind a fiancee and a one-month-old son.

On Sunday, Chicago Bears defensive end Gaines Adams was taken to a Greenville, S.C., hospital where he was admitted to the emergency room and passed away soon after at the age of 26, leaving behind two children of his own.

Both athletes had several things in common.

They both died of an enlarged heart, were big athletes, had no knowledge that they had this condition.

With athletes getting increasingly bigger as sports evolve, it's only a matter of time before this type of situation repeats itself.

But with regular testing, this type of tragedy could be prevented.

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Bob Howe, the coroner in Lewis' case, said the only way Lewis' condition would have been detected was if he would have taken a stress test.

That's why testing on players' hearts should be a regular fixture in preseason physicals, especially in a sport like football. 

If players' conditions are detected early enough, certain precautions can be taken by athletes and coaches in order to prevent sudden death like Lewis and Adams experienced.

Loyola Marymount basketball player Hank Gathers experienced something very similar when he collapsed during a game in 1990 and died from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, the same condition Lewis and Adams had.

Aside from annual testing, it should be mandatory that paramedics be present at all sporting events at any level of play.

At a press conference on Friday regarding Lewis' death, Southern Indiana assistant athletics director Jay Newton said there's no policy in place by the NCAA that requires EMTs or medical personnel to be present during sporting events.

"We don't even do it here," Newton said about events at Southern Indiana.

These seemingly small measures can end up going a long way and possibly save someone's life and even keep fathers with their children.

Follow Cole on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ColeClaybourn

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