It doesn’t happen frequently, but there have been cases of young and otherwise healthy athletes dying suddenly from an aortic dissection. It’s called Marfan Syndrome, and it (along with related disorders) affects approximately 200,000 Americans.
The good news is that it’s possible to diagnose and treat this syndrome. It’s possible to save lives.
People with this condition frequently are tall, with disproportionately long arms and legs, often have indented or protruding chest bone, scoliosis, flat feet, hyper-flexible joints, and other skeletal abnormalities. The problem that can be fatal though, is in the aorta. The aorta is the largest artery in the human body, extending from the heart down into the abdomen. When there is weak connective tissue in this blood vessel, a tear or rupture can occur if not treated.
The National Marfan Foundation (NMF) has announced an Athlete Alert to raise awareness of the syndrome and related disorders. Their call to action encourages the following:
- Pre-participation physical examinations for student athletes should meet minimum standards outlined by the American Academy of Pediatrics and should be implemented in all sports programs.
- Parents, coaches, and school nurses should be aware of the outward signs of Marfan syndrome and have a child evaluated if there is a suspicion.
- Proper precautions should be in place when an athlete is diagnosed with Marfan Syndrome or a related disorder.
- Evaluation for Marfan Syndrome and related disorders for the entire family if there is a diagnosis.
Do you have a child or other loved one who may have Marfan Syndrome (or a related disorder)? If you think so, why not have a doctor check to be sure? You could be saving a life.
Earnest Parenting: help for parents who want to check for Marfan Syndrome.