Isaiah Austin isn’t slowing down despite Marfan syndrome and medically barred from the NBA

By: Flomo Yarkpawolo
 

I cannot help but admire Isaiah Austin’s toughness, drive, determination and willpower to keep going when the going gets tough. I first heard about Austin, the former Baylor basketball star, in 2014. He was projected as a first-round prospect in the 2014 NBA draft. However, during the NBA draft combine workout of that year, the results from his physical came back with an alarming result. An electrocardiogram test revealed an abnormality in his heart – genetic tests, results came back positive for Marfan syndrome. Austin is also blind in his right eye from a spontaneous retinal detachment that occurred during middle school injury. He had kept the visual loss a secret, known only to his teammates and close friends until January 17, 2014. He was recommended to quit playing basketball immediately and medically barred from playing in the National Basketball Association (NBA). The NBA has had cases of basketball players dying from cardiac related issues. Among them are collegiate star Hank Gathers, in 1990, and G-League player Zeke Upshaw in March 2018.

Over the years, Austin worked with Dr. David Liang, a Marfan specialist at Stanford University. The two of them bonded. While Austin stayed in shape with restrained workouts, he kept in touch with Dr. Liang. A few times a year, Austin flew out to northern California for a checkup. Dr. Liang recalls Austin being shell-shocked at the time. Physically, though, Austin felt good. Dr. Liang had confirmed the NBA's Marfan diagnosis via genetic testing, but noted that Austin had a "very mild" case. According to Dr. Liang, “My philosophy is, it's not my job to tell people what they can and can't do,'' Dr. Liang says. "It's to let them understand what the risks are.

Austin wrote on his Facebook page:

"After 2014 I was told this day would never come, but God is great and has been with me this whole time, so here I am! Signing my first professional basketball contract ever, and I am so grateful!"

On January 7, 2017, the 24-year-old, 7-foot-1, wrote in a Facebook post that he had signed a contract to play professionally in Europe. At that time, he also announced that he had been cleared by doctors to return to playing basketball and that he will join FMP Belgrade, a club affiliate of Serbian giant Red Star Belgrade. In July 2017, Austin joined the Guangxi Rhinos of the Chinese National Basketball League where (NBL). He is averaging 35.1 points per game along with 10.3 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 0.9 steals.

What is Marfan Syndrome

According to Marfan.org,

Marfan syndrome is a genetic disorder that affects the body’s connective tissue. Connective tissue holds all the body’s cells, organs and tissue together. It also plays an important role in helping the body grow and develop properly. Because connective tissue is found throughout the body, Marfan syndrome can affect many different parts of the body, as well. Features of the disorder are most often found in the heart, blood vessels, bones, joints, and eyes. Some Marfan features – for example, aortic enlargement (expansion of the main blood vessel that carries blood away from the heart to the rest of the body) – can be life-threatening. The lungs, skin and nervous system may also be affected.

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