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10 Famous Athletes Who Have Been Affected by Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

The leading cause of death among athletes is sudden cardiac death (SCD); in fact, is estimated that the condition causes 1 death in between 50,000 to 300,000 athletes annually. Unfortunately, athletes with a faulty gene that causes Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) are more prone to SCD. And that’s because the muscles of their hearts tend to thicken, making it hard for it to pump blood.

Most athletes with HCM don’t know that they have this condition. But there have been cases of the thickened heart muscles causing serious health symptoms. Some of these symptoms include chest pain and shortness of breath. In severe cases, it can affect the heart’s electrical system resulting in death or irregular heartbeats.

Here is a list of athletes who have been affected by hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

1. Reggie Lewis

Back in 1993, the world mourned the death of Reggie Lewis, a basketball legend. Lewis collapsed on the court during an off-season practice at the University of Brandeis. The 27-year-old player was found by 2 university police who tried to revive him but were unsuccessful. Apparently, he had suffered a cardiac death attributed to HCM which causes death among young athletes.

2. Marc-Vivien Foé

Marc was a Cameroonian player who took part in the FIFA Confederation Cup of 2003. He played against Turkey and the Brazil, but the one against Colombia was his last match. During the match, Foe collapsed in the 72nd minute. The medics tried to resuscitate him for 45 minutes and he was still alive when he arrived at the hospital where he was pronounced dead. The autopsy confirmed that he had Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

3. Miklos Feher

Benfica fans will never forget their away match against Guimaraes on January 25, 2004. On this day, Feher came in as a substitute and assisted Aguiar score the match’s only goal. But during the extra time, he collapsed after receiving a yellow card. He was rushed to the hospital but unfortunately, he passed away the same day. The cause of his death was cardiac arrhythmia caused by HCM. 

4. Zena Ray Upshaw

Upshaw played a major role in helping the Grand Rapids get a playoff spot on March 24, 2018. But in the final minute, he collapsed and his heart stopped for 40 minutes, even with the medics trying to resuscitate him. Zena died 2 days later and the examiner confirmed that he had SCD caused by HCM.

5. Omar Carter

Unlike most players who have been affected by this condition, Carter is still alive. Carter was 25 years old when he collapsed while playing a Pro-Am game. His heart stopped for 13 minutes before being resuscitated. He was taken to the hospital where he was diagnosed with HCM. 

6. Jared Butler

Butler was diagnosed with HCM in 2017 while he was in college. But that didn’t stop him from going after his dream since 3 years later, he was a rookie playing for Utah Jazz. Early detection of HCM gave him time to learn about it and manage the condition. This made it possible for him to live his dream and currently, he is playing for the Washington Wizards.

7. Gerome Graham

Graham was one of the fittest athletes on his team (Bodden Town), which is why his teammates first thought that he was joking when he collapsed. Unfortunately, Gerome didn’t make it and the autopsy confirmed that he had HCM. 

8. Yair Clavijo

In 2013, Peruvian soccer fans were struck with shock and sorrow as Clavijo, an 18-year-old player, tragically collapsed and died on the pitch.The player passed away in Cusco in their reserve game against Real Garcilaso. The soccer player suffered from HCM and cerebral edema. 

9. Fabrice Muamba

Muamba collapsed in Bolton’s FA game against Tottenham in March 2012. Luckily, there was a consultant cardiologist watching the match who helped the medic revive him and take him to the hospital. Further tests confirmed that he had HCM, a condition that has caused the death of many athletes. He later had his kids tested and confirmed that they all have the faulty gene causing HCM. 

10. Adam Wodon

Adam did not pursue a career as a professional athlete. Instead, he has been the voice behind college hockey games since 1988 as the play-by-play broadcaster for Princeton and Cornell. However, Adam’s journey took an unexpected turn when he was diagnosed with HCM in 2022. Despite this challenge, he is effectively managing his condition with the help of various medications.

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Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy has ended the career of most young athletes with most losing their lives. Luckily, some of the athletes like Muamba were able to survive and continue with their careers. But the key to a healthy life is early detection. Players like Jared Butler learned how to manage the condition and are still breaking NBA records to date.

Kenyalogue Contributor


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