As I sit here during spring break, watching the HS Nationals (I can’t seem to get away), I’m watching Miller Grove (GA) play and my mind starts to wander… I start to think about my son’s journey through AAU basketball and how it has brought him some great, good, and not so good experiences.
About three to four years ago, when we lived in Atlanta, my son looked up to a few older basketball players in the circuit. One of them was a talented young man named Terrell Coleman. He was a top high school prospect whom suddenly died after a game. He probably would be playing for Miller Grove right now, this very game I’m watching. When this young man passed, the news hit so close to home and really affected my son. Explaining death to a child is hard enough, even worse when someone they know dies doing what they love.
In the weeks following Terrell’s death, doctors confirmed that he had a heart condition - a heart murmur and a leaking valve. Although all heart murmurs are not serious, they cause the heart to beat faster and overwork. A few short months after that, we saw another AAU family tragically lose their son. Jeremy Nelson had died on the court during the game. Jeremy’s cause of death was fluid on the lungs, which was undetected. Not long after these sad incidents, I started researching other types of health conditions that might affect athletes. I discovered a condition called “Athletic Heart Syndrome”. This condition is common in athletes that train with heavy endurance for more than two hours daily. The heart can become enlarged due to all of the continued pumping and over working. People who are born with cardiovascular conditions or develop these conditions often go unnoticed. The mother in me frantically started thinking if I should have tests run on the kids. I mean, how many times have you asked your Pediatrician to run a EKG on your child? Why hadn’t I asked? I mean….unless you had reason to think so, you don’t. Was I wrong for not doing so? We focus so much on diet and proper hydration, are we overlooking other factors that might be impacting their health? Can our kids communicate with us when something is really wrong? Can we decipher between what’s normal fatigue and a sign of something larger? I remember seeing Jeremy’s family and Terrell’s mother after both had passed. The pain in their eyes were unforgettable and indescribable.
I highly suggest, during your child’s annual physical, that you order a EKG. I did, and my son’s results showed that his heart is healthy. Stay diligent, parents, and continue to pray, so that our kids can continue to play.
Rest in peace, Terrell and Jeremy. You will continue to impact our minds and hearts. ♥️