My daughter sent me this morning a screen capture from the public instagram account of Logan OKrafka (see image to the right): I highly encourage every junior athlete, every masters athlete and every parent of every junior athlete, irrespective of sport to read this post and then re-read this post, and then think about how you or your child trains, how ‘hard’ they train or how ‘hard’ they are made to train by their trainer/coach, about the qualifications – i.e. education & experience or lack thereof – of their trainer/coach… and then consider what if this post was written by yourself or your child.

I have posted this because I do not believe Logan OKrafka is alone. I believe there are many suffering in silence, holding onto the false narrative that if they only try hard enough… if they only push themselves hard enough for long enough… the success they seek will be achieved; meanwhile cracks in their physical and mental health yields conflicting evidence whether the path they are holding onto fiercely is truly the right path, an healthy path.

I believe that there are many many junior and masters athletes who are and who have experienced heart disease signs & symptoms but like Logan & his family and friends swept it aside as implausible. I would tend to believe that if heart rate monitors [HRMs] were worn by junior athletes across all sports – i.e. swimming, cycling, running, hockey, lacrosse, basketball, soccer, et al – that the story of Logan would not be a case study but evidence of an epidemic where pushing one’s limits has lost all contact with common sense and has morphed into a madness where denial of limits is considered ‘epic’, valiant, even heroic.

Click image to link to the full article at Velonews.com of world famous bike expert Lennard Zinn’s own heart health issues

Although I do not know details, I believe the following are reasonable assumptions that can be made from what was posted on the instagram account…

(1) A 2 year process to discover a ‘short circuit’ … !!

2 years! Are you kidding me? And its only recently that he was told to stop riding his bike? The kid is lucky to be alive. No ifs, ands or buts…. he is 100% lucky to be alive because with an uncontrolled heart beat its not implausible that he could have had a cardiac arrest at any point in time in the past 2 years… and what if that happened while out on a ride, alone, what about in a race, a MTB race no less potentially far from immediate emergency medical assistance, or what if it happened in his sleep?

(2) Asthma? Seriously… asthma? Puffers? With a HR that won’t come down from 220+ at rest?

What a statement about our health care system.  Did anyone even listen to the signs & symptoms that this child had or is it unfathomable to anyone that a teen could be experiencing heart disease signs typically left for 50+ year olds, and brushed it off as … asthma!  What an health care system! A system which incentive-izes quantity of patient care instead of quality, a system which incentive-izes the prescription of drugs as the cure-all.

Meanwhile, if Logan’s father came to a doctor with these signs & symptoms he would have been escorted to the Emergency Department of a local hospital or told to immediately go to the local hospital for examination and observation. Ya think Logan’s father would have been diagnosed with asthma and given puffers? Hell no! Why? Because its ‘expected’ for someone older to have heart issues, and its not expected for a teen boy to have heart issues… our system treats the signs & symptoms you are ‘supposed’ to have based on your age, not the signs & symptoms you are actually having… and we call this health care!

Lulled into passivity that all exercise is healthy, especially Hi Intensity Interval Training (i.e. HiiT and all its variations), lulled into complacency that repeated excessively intense training has the potential to alter the heart health of an healthy teenager… and voila… 2 years before someone got a clue and said to stop riding!

(3) “Born with a short circuit”…?

Seriously? A congenital short circuit… how exactly was that diagnosed? Sure, a structural impairment of the heart can be diagnosed as congenital many years after birth and may not had an impact until the heart was severely stressed, but an electrical issue? How did an electrical dysfunction of the heart go unnoticed for over a decade? If it was congenital, then shouldn’t Logan have had heart beat irregularities from birth, hence shouldn’t Logan have noticed irregularities in his heart rate from the first day he wore a heart rate monitor? Or is it once again implausible to conceive that a teenager could develop – through excessively intense training – the same heart disease signs & symptoms that a 50+ year old develops as a result of unhealthy living and not as a birth defect?

How bout this… we are a society that cannot conceive that athletes (especially children who are athletes) can push themselves, will push themselves and that trainers/coaches will push both junior and masters athletes so hard so as to cause the development of heart disease signs & symptoms that have been up til this century reserved for “unhealthy” adults in their 40s, 50s and 60s.

Not possible… yeah… read this: 15 yr old dies in his sleep of silent heart attacks and the coroner reports NO CONGENITAL HEART ISSUES!

Click image to link to the full article at Bicycling.com

We’ve been sold the narrative that training hard (i.e. effort wise) is great, training harder still is even greater, and training to the point of nearly killing yourself with Hi Intensity Intervals Training (i.e. HiiT) or Everest’ing is next to genius… or is it?  What if its simply ignorant trainers & coaches trying to make a name for themselves selling a narrative of self inflicted harm as if its the pathway to your potential, to consistent peak performance in sport?

There is something seriously wrong when a teenager is having heart signs & symptoms that no one under the age of 50 should have, yet somehow he is and he is not the only one. That any child should die from cardiac arrest for non-congenital reasons – i.e. the child was pushed to their physical limit repeatedly until they did suffer a cardiac arrest – is inconceivable yet it has happened, and that more children are developing heart disease signs & symptoms as a result of being involved in sport is unimagineable… yet here we are: junior athletes – children – being diagnosed with heart disease and young pro athletes in their twenties dying of heart attacks.

It doesn’t end there, I believe that the anxiety and the ADHD disorders children are being diagnosed with are yet another indication of the extent to which children are being ‘pushed’ to perform at younger and younger ages. Screw growing up on your own trajectory… as a child your objective is to start to outperform your peers by walking earlier than all other infants in the neighbourhood, after that… just keep the foot on the gas pedal because there is no lettting up… ever!

Gee… wonder why children are overweight, obese, anxious, withdrawn, failing to engage life, each other, developing heart disease, etc…  Yeah… its a real mystery.

Its time to call an end to this madness… the madness that is Hi Intensity Training and the madness which is Hi Intensity Living… both are killing us and our children.

Click image to enlarge

For Logan…

I truly hope his surgery goes seamlessly and that his recovery is quick.

I hope that he returns to MTB’ing and cycling once cleared to do so, and does so in an healthy manner: by starting right, by respecting his body, listening to his body and not denying what his body and brain are saying to him.

I hope that he can accept the starting point that his body & brain will give him after his surgery and that he sees this as an opportunity to start over again.

I truly hope all the best for him and I hope that all other junior and masters athletes appreciate what Logan has done by sharing his experiences.

We can make sport once again great for generations to come if healthy training & racing is prioritized ahead of results, not leveraged to obtain results.

The worst thing that could happen is we swipe this under the rug as quickly as possible, pretend it never happened, pretend it isn’t happening to anyone else, pretend that all is well and just keep on keepin’ on, kinda like this guy…

Last year a swimmer on our masters swim team shared a story of a friend of theirs who was to run the Mississauga Marathon and who had been training consistently to do so. I don’t recall now whether it was the night before or the morning of the marathon that they started to experience some tightness in their chest, but celebrating “beast-mode” they thought to themselves its nothing, swallowed a few painkillers to numb themselves so that they could do their marathon. They ran the marathon, finished it, but the chest pain didn’t go away. Concerned that the marathon didn’t flush it out of their system, they went to their local hospital emergency department. Diagnosis… heart attack. Yup, they were having an heart attack before the marathon, and then proceeded to run the marathon.

After the diagnosis and following treatment, this person was quick to return to Facebook sharing how they are eager to return quickly to running, to running at their old pace and to continue right where they left off.

Heart damage… no doubt.

Brain damage… you decide.

Oh… and this is what we collectively call “healthy active living” aka “an healthy lifestyle”!