Athletes choose to compete despite chronic medical conditions

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By Charlie Browning
cbrowning@hilite.org

It’s all about heart

Junior Eric Kinn was nearing the end of sixth grade when he had to have nose tumor surgery. During the eight-hour operation, Kinn’s heart stopped beating, and doctors had to revive him in order to keep him alive. After that, doctors decided that it would be best to insert a heart defibrillator inside of him for precautionary reasons.

The defibrillator was put there so that, if his heart were to stop beating again, it could shock him and restart the blood flow.

But despite these setbacks, Kinn has been a dedicated runner since fifth grade, and he said there was no way that a condition such as this was going to stop him from participating in a sport that he enjoyed.

“At first (the doctors) thought I had Long QT Syndrome, which meant I would have had to stop participating in pretty much all sports because it would be too dangerous,” Kinn said. “Thankfully, though, it wasn’t that serious, but I still had to get the defibrillator to be safe.”

Having the defibrillator inside of him is helpful, but running is still dangerous after the surgery because of the possibility that his heart will stop again.

This led Kinn and his family to face a decision about whether he should continue running.

Ultimately, his passion for running trumped the possible danger he faced by continuing to do what he enjoyed.

“I wanted to keep running, and the doctors said that I would still be allowed to. My parents were a little uneasy about it, but they always listened to what the doctors said and went along with it,” Kinn said.

STRETCH IT OUT: Junior Eric Kinn stretches before running during cross-country practice on Nov. 2. Kinn has run with a heart defibrillator since sixth grade as a precaution after his heart stopped beating during nose tumor surgery. EMILY PUTERBAUGH / PHOTO

Certified athletic trainer Dawn Ellington said she thinks it is good for athletes to look for sporting options that provide the least amount of risk.

“We tell any athlete that any sport is potentially harmful or dangerous for them,” Ellington said. “Choosing a sport with the least amount of risk is their best option, especially for athletes who have pre-existing conditions that could possibly limit their participation.”

Kinn is allowed to continue running, but only on certain terms. For example, throughout middle school and even up through races in his sophomore year, Kinn had to wear a heart rate monitor that would monitor how his heart was doing and would help him know if he was entering a dangerous heart rate.

“I had to wear it, and if it reached 210 beats per minute, I had to stop activity and take a break,” Kinn said.

This extra precaution he took also helped ease the minds of his parents.

“I think it helped them be a lot less apprehensive about me running because they knew that I was able to monitor myself and I would stop if I got to a certain heart rate,” Kinn said.

Ellington and other athletic trainers’ presence also  help ease the minds of parents.

“With athletes who have conditions that are more involved, they are directly monitored by their physician,” Ellington said. “We know about (the conditions) and are here to help enforce the guidelines set by the physicians.”

Kinn had to run with a heart monitor for four years after the surgery, but, starting this year, he said he hasn’t had to worry about how many times his heart is beating per minute.

“After the surgery, it took me about two years to get back into the kind of shape I was before,” Kinn said. “Then I had to run with the heart rate monitor for a while after that just to make sure I wasn’t going too hard. Now my resting heart rate is so low that it’s not even that much of a problem for me anymore. I don’t even think about it anymore during races or anything.”

Last month, Kinn competed in the cross-country State Finals for the Greyhounds and finished in third place on the team.

Kinn isn’t alone in having to face the task of overcoming the obstacle of participating in athletics with a potentially dangerous condition.

Diabetes doesn’t hold him back

Samuel Curts, basketball player and junior, has been playing basketball for as long as he can remember.

TRUE WARRIOR: Guard and junior Samuel Curts gets in a defensive stance in a game against Fishers last year. Despite being a diabetic, Curts played significant minutes on the varsity men’s basketball team. LIZZY GRUBBS / PHOTO

In eighth grade, though, he was diagnosed with diabetes.

“It was really tough at first,” Curts said. “I had to take breaks a lot when (my blood sugar was) low, and I had to make sure I had something with me that had sugar in it incase my blood sugar started to drop.”

Curts, like Kinn, was able to adjust to his condition and overcome it, making it a normal part of his life.

“It’s just a normal part of me now,” Curts said. “I don’t ever think about it while I’m playing and it doesn’t feel different anymore.”

When Curts found out he had diabetes, he knew he wanted to continue playing basketball, and he did not let such a condition stop him.

“I knew I wanted to keep playing, and I feel fortunate that I am still able to play basketball as much as I want without harming myself,” he said.

“The only difference now is I have to check up on myself every now and then to make sure I’m doing all right.”

“It took a little getting used to, but it feels so normal now that I don’t even really notice it or think about it.”

Kinn and Curts both had obstacles thrown at them that could have potentially limited their participation or achievement in athletics that they enjoy playing.

Neither of them, though, let their respective condition get the best of them.

“When the doctor diagnosed me with diabetes, I was upset, but I knew that I could still play basketball. All I had to do was be a little more cautious at first and monitor myself as I felt like I was getting low,” Curts said. “It never even crossed my mind to quit playing.”

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