Posted on 01/18/2010

The 26-year-old defensive end
for the Chicago Bears, Gaines Adams, died on Sunday, January 17, of
cardiac arrest resulting from an enlarged heart, according to Greenwood
County, South Carolina chief deputy coroner Marcia Kelley-Clark, as
reported in the Chicago Tribune. Drug use was not suspected to be a factor in Adams’ death, although toxicology tests are being conducted.

The death of Gaines Adams comes just one month after Cincinnati Bengals’ receiver Chris Henry died after falling out of the back of a pickup truck. Henry also was only 26 years old.

The Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation reports that about 300,000 people suffer sudden cardiac arrest each year in the United States. The survival rate is dismal: only 6 to 7 percent. The number of people who die each year from sudden cardiac arrest is seven times the number who die from breast cancer.

The coroner reported that Gaines Adams had an enlarged heart, although the Chicago Tribune also
noted that Adams did not have any previously reported medical
conditions that revealed heart problems. An enlarged heart, according
to the American Heart Association, is an increase in the size of the
heart that can be detected by physical examination, x-rays, or other
imaging techniques.

An enlarged heart (also known as cardiomegaly) is not a disease but
a symptom of another condition. Although an enlarged heart can develop
for no apparent reason, it is often caused by a condition that makes
the heart pump harder than usual. These conditions may include high
blood pressure, heart valve disease, weakness of the heart muscle
(cardiomyopathy), a congenital heart defect, arrhythmia (abnormal
heartbeat), pulmonary hypertension, a thyroid disorder, excessive iron
in the body (hemochromatosis), accumulation of abnormal proteins in the
heart, or anemia.

An enlarged heart is not always preventable, but it is usually
treatable, according to Mayo Clinic. Treatment can include medication,
surgery, or medical procedures, depending on the cause of the
cardiomegaly. Unfortunately, some cases of an enlarged heart got
undiagnosed until it is too late.

Gaines Adams’ untimely death from cardiac arrest comes
just a few months after he was traded to Chicago from Tampa Bay in
exchange for a 2010 second-round draft pick. A graduate of Clemson,
Adams was born in Greenwood, South Carolina, and died in the city in
which he was born.

American Heart Association
Chicago Tribune, Jan. 17, 2010
Mayo Clinic
Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation