Twenty-nine months after he collapsed in an offseason workout as a result of a previously undetected heart problem, Allan Chaney has renewed hope that he will once again play in a college basketball game.
It won't be at Florida, the school where he started his career. It won't be at Virginia Tech, the school where he transferred three years ago. Instead, it will be at High Point, the Big South program willing to risk letting Chaney play after its doctors concurred with the University of Pennsylvania cardiologist who medically cleared him earlier this summer.
Chaney, a former top 100 recruit who last played the 2008-09 season at Florida, will be eligible to play at High Point immediately because he graduated from Virginia Tech this spring. The Baltimore Sun published a superb profile of Chaney on Sunday delving into the details of his courageous comeback bid.
It describes Chaney's shock when he learned he had passed out from a "cardiac episode" caused by severe strain his condition had put on his heart. It describes his frustration when doctors at Virginia Tech and specialists across the country told him he'd never play basketball competitively again. It describes his renewed hope when cardiologist Francis Marchlinski mentioned a new wireless defibrillator less likely to break or malfunction during extreme physical activity. And it describes his love of basketball that won't let him quit in circumstances others might.
"If I was a bum and I knew I couldn't hoop, I'd pack it up easy. I'd get into coaching or something like that," Chaney told the Sun. "But I feel like I'm good enough to play, especially in college. And I feel like I'm good enough to play at the next level, so I can't short myself."
It will be a touching moment when Chaney plays in his first game in three years, yet it's hard not to be wary of the risk he is taking.
Heart conditions have cut short the lives of basketball stars Reggie Lewis and Hank Gathers. There have been tremendous advances in defibrillator technology in recent years, yet few basketball success stories.
Vanderbilt's Davis Nwankwo walked away from the sport after being resuscitated during practice in 2006 because his condition was too severe to justify a comeback. And last year, New Mexico denied Emmanuel Negedu medical clearance 10 games into the season after his internal defibrillator produced a reading that alarmed doctors. Negedu came to New Mexico because doctors at Tennessee didn't feel it was safe for him to play again after he suffered sudden cardiac arrest and nearly died.
If anyone can offer an informed perspective on the risk Negedu is taking by playing Division I college basketball again, Will Kimble is a good candidate.
Kimble passed out during practice at Pepperdine in 2002 as a result of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the heart muscle thickens, making it harder for the heart to pump blood. Pepperdine wouldn't clear Kimble to play, so he transferred to UTEP, playing the 2004-05 and '05-06 seasons with a cardiac defibrillator implanted in his chest to monitor his heart's rhythm and to deliver energy when an irregularity occurs.
Kimble spoke to Yahoo! Sports last year when Negedu was attempting his comeback. He suggested heart conditions should not be career ending so long as players receive proper medical attention and they're fully committed to the decision to return.
"I believe that this condition is something that can be monitored, and if you have a good crew of doctors looking after you, I believe it's something you can play with," Kimble said. "My understanding was my defibrillator is going to protect me."
Hopefully Chaney's defibrillator protects him, especially since the technology is even more state-of-the-art than the one Kimble had.
Chaney's career up until this point has been tumultuous. It would be great if the rest of it is uneventful.
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