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USC’s Bronny James collapses, suffers cardiac arrest

USC men’s basketball player Bronny James collapsed during a practice session Monday and suffered cardiac arrest.

The incident took place at USC’s Galen Center where the program’s medical staff was able to help James before he was taken to Cedars-Sinai Hospital and placed in the intensive care unit (ICU).

“… He is now in stable condition and no longer in ICU,” the James family spokesperson said Tuesday morning. “We ask for respect and privacy for the James family and we will update media when there is more information.”

The Los Angeles Fire Department confirmed paramedics responded to the Galen Center after a 911 call at 9:26 a.m. about a person in medical distress. A spokeswoman for the department said LAFD would not disclose who the patient was, citing medical privacy laws.

James, a McDonald’s All-American from Sierra Canyon school and the eldest son of Lakers star LeBron James, is preparing for his freshman season with the Trojans. LeBron James said that his son’s enrollment in college was one of the best days of his life as Bronny became the first in the family to attend college. James has also expressed his wish to play with his son in the NBA. Bronny’s future as a player was uncertain after Monday’s collapse.

“Bronny is a truly exceptional young man,” Sierra Canyon Head of School Jim Skrumbis said. “We are all grateful for the medical professionals at USC who provided immediate attention he needed. Sierra Canyon community wishes him well on his journey to recovery.”

Bronny’s collapse raised memories of Damar Hamlin’s injury on Monday Night Football, a blow to the chest causing him to suffer cardiac arrest before receiving CPR and automated external defibrillation (AED) on the field.

Hamlin offered support to Bronny James and his family via Twitter.

“Prayers to Bronny & The James family as well. Here for you guys just like you have been for me my entire process,” Hamlin wrote.

However, Hamlin’s incident is different than James’. Sources close to the USC program say that James’ collapse did not come after impact, but was similar to the story of former Loyola Marymount University basketball player Hank Gathers, who suddenly collapsed during a game in 1989 against UC Santa Barbara. He was later found to have an abnormal heartbeat (exercise-induced ventricular tachycardia) and did return to play later that same season. However, Gathers collapsed again in March of 1990 against Portland University and was later pronounced dead at the hospital the evening at 23 years old.

The incident raises questions about Bronny James’ basketball future. The spectrum of possibilities is wide. Hamlin has returned to practice with the Bills, and Gathers’ story is tragic.

Medical expert and cardiologist Dr. Ernst von Schwarz, a highly-respected heart surgeon out of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and the author of “The Secrets of Immortality,” says the  causes sudden cardiac arrest vary.

“It is a condition,” von Schwarz said. “There’s different causes for it, but usually there is an underlying, often congenital condition – meaning the people, the athletes are born with it, and that, especially during heavy physical activity, can lead to an arrhythmia which equals cardiac arrest and the vast majority die of that.”

“The most common cause, for example, is what we call hypertrophic cardiomyopathy or hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy, which is a congenital disease and affects the heart muscle itself, which is often enlarged, thickened in those young people. And the problem with that is it doesn’t cause any symptoms. So, it doesn’t cause pain, it doesn’t cause weakness, doesn’t cause shortness of breath.”

Von Shwarz continued: “Those who survive, then you have to do certain measures to prevent it from happening again. If it’s a hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, those people often need medication. They often need defibrillators implanted because it’s a lifelong condition, inherited, which cannot be cured. It can be dealt with, but the person has to deal with it lifelong and often times that can mean it’s over with competitive sports.”

Despite von Shwarz’s analysis, athletes have come back to compete at a high level after cardiac arrest. Danish soccer player Christian Ericksen collapsed and suffered cardiac arrest during Euro 2020 and later competed in the 2022 World Cup. USC’s Vince Iwuchukwu collapsed during an informal team workout in July of 2022. The five-star prospect had suffered sudden cardiac arrest and was hospitalized for a few days. Iwuchukwu did end up making a recovery and played in 14 games in the latter part of the 2022-23 season.

Josh Cain contributed to this report.

Prayers to Bronny & The James family as well. 🙏🏽 here for you guys just like you have been for me my entire process.

— 𝐃𝐚𝐦𝐚𝐫 𝐇𝐚𝐦𝐥𝐢𝐧 (@HamlinIsland) July 25, 2023

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