KNOXVILLE (WVLT) – University of Tennessee basketball standout Duke Crews’ heart condition made national news on Friday when his mother told the New York Times that an echocardiogram saved her son’s life.
The reason he received the test was because of Mickey King, a long-time dedicated UT fan and president of Ultrascan Inc, a Georgia ultrasound company.
In the past, King had decided to provide free heart tests for all of Tennessee's athletes.
"It was just something I felt like I could be a part of, you know, and help somebody,” he said.
That somebody was Duke Crews.
The Tidewater Virginia area native seemed perfectly healthy when he went in for his screening, but UT's team physician Chris Klenck said the echocardiogram revealed a heart condition that could've taken a turn for the worst if not revealed.
"Fortunately for Duke, nothing was identified that precluded him from returning to athletics,” said Dr. Klenck. “He responded real well to rest and he's been able to return and has done really well for us."
Even at the high school level, sprinting up and down a basketball court non-stop can be deadly for someone with an unknown heart problem.
"You may stress the heart so that it undergoes a fatal cardiac arrhythmia, where the heart stops beating or doesn't beat efficiently," he said.
According to Dr. Klenk, athletes of all ages could be at risk for heart problems.
"First and foremost, see your physician,” he said. “Undergo a very thorough history, looking for things like chest pain with exertion, shortness of breath, and feeling like you're going to pass out. Those are all red flags for a heart problem."
He said the most dangerous thing an athlete can do is ignore their symptoms.
"A lot of these conditions are something that the athletes are born with and develop over time,” he said.
The average cost for an echocardiogram is $500 to $1,500 per screening.
UT is one of the few universities in the nation to provide the tests for all 500 of its student-athletes.