In April, former Patriot and long time Bostonian Ron Brace died due to heart failure at the age of 29. After autopsy, medical examiners listed Brace’s cause of death as an irregular heartbeat combined with a heart condition caused by high blood pressure. Examiners ruled out the possibility of heart attack, as was assumed before the autopsy. Brace, six foot six and 330 pounds, was drafted in 2009 to the Patriots as a defensive lineman after a successful career at Boston College. He played 39 games over four seasons with the Patriots before retiring.
We at the Lown Group are deeply saddened by Brace’s story. Heart failure should not be a problem at age 29, and it represents a core issue in athletics. Many athletes are not given the testing and protection that they need to maintain their health because the focus and priority is performance.. Coaches and physicians often assume that the athlete’s heart is healthy and functional because they are such active people. However, the body and heart respond to physical and neurological stress with the same response, and the repeated and constant workload of professional athletics can push a weakened heart past its boundaries. This is an area of opportunity for protection in athletics in the form of ECG Stress Exercise and Echocardiogram tests for athletes. With baseline testing, coaches and athletes would be aware of preexisting conditions and possible risk associated with high volume training. With our new Sports cardiology program, we hope to protect athletes with noninvasive testing and careful guidance from one of our cardiologists to prevent injury and cardiac events.
Ron Brace during practice with the Patriots August 1st, 2009 AP Photo/Winslow Townson