In my monthly column at Endurance Corner, I write about Normann Stadler, the 2-time Ironman World Champion who recently underwent urgent heart surgery. He’s making a good recovery early after operation.
I share my thoughts about how heart disease affects even the fittest athletes. The lesson in Stadler’s story is to take charge of your own cardiovascular health.
Darryl Kile, a professional baseball player, died at the age of 33 on June 22, 2002. At the time, he was a star pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals. The team was in Chicago for a game against the Chicago Cubs and Kile failed to show up at the ballpark for pre-game warmups. Team officials would return to the team hotel to find a “Do Not Disturb” sign on his room door. Sadly, Kile was found dead in his bed, with every indication that he died in his sleep. Kile was survived by his wife and 3 young children.
I can recall the announcer’s words at the start of the game broadcast that day: “I thank you for your patience. We regret to inform you because of a tragedy in the Cardinal family that the commissioner has cancelled the game today. Please be respectful. You will find out eventually what has happened, and I ask that you say a prayer for the St. Louis Cardinals’ family.”
It was a particularly sad week for Cardinals fans. The team’s long-time announcer, Jack Buck, died after a long illness earlier in the week.
An autopsy showed that Kile died of a massive heart attack. Two of the three main coronary arteries had 80-90% blockage.
Of course, it’s unusual for a seemingly healthy 33-year-old, yet alone a professional athlete, to die from coronary artery disease. Kile had passed the annual team physical which included an EKG and blood tests during spring training. We would come to learn, though, that Kile’s father also died shortly after suffering a heart attack in 1993, at the young age of 44.
Kile’s death may have been unavoidable. For readers here at the blog who have a family history of coronary artery disease, it’s particularly important to pay attention to modifiable risk factors (such as smoking, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.) and to any warning signs (such as chest pain/discomfort or shortness of breath) for coronary artery disease.