What parents of student-athletes should know following Bronny James cardiac arrest

FILE - LeBron James, left, poses with his son Bronny after Sierra Canyon beat Akron St. Vincent - St. Mary in a high school basketball game, Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019, in Columbus, Ohio. Bronny James, son of NBA superstar LeBron James, was hospitalized after going into cardiac arrest while participating in a practice at Southern California on Monday, July 24, 2023. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete, File)(AP/Jay LaPrete)

A D.C.- area pediatric cardiologist said that medical emergencies in student athletes, such as the cardiac arrest LeBron James’ son had during basketball practice rarely happen; they are likely the result of an underlying heart condition.

“I think the one thing for parents to know is that this is rare to have a sudden cardiac arrest in a young person such as Bronny James,” said Dr. Annette Ansong, medical director of Outpatient Cardiology at Children’s National Hospital. “Usually it’s 1 out of 50,000 to 80,000 young athletes that suffer from a sudden cardiac arrest and usually it’s from something underlying such as a structural issue with the heart.”

Bronny James, an incoming freshman at USC, is in stable condition, his family said, after being moved from intensive care.  The 18-year-old son of NBA star James is recovering from a cardiac arrest.

Ansong said that cardiac arrest due to an undiagnosed heart problem can happen without warning, but there can be telltale signs.

“One of the things I ask my young athletes when I see them in the office … ‘Are you having chest pain with activity? Have you ever passed out with exercise or activity?’ So sometimes a provider can be clued in into perhaps doing further work-up based on what the patient is telling them,” Ansong said.

What should parents, particularly parents of student-athletes know?

“First and foremost — knowing your family history, knowing your own personal history … Is there a family history of a sudden cardiac death? Then, the basics … making sure you have a healthy diet, fruits and vegetables, that you’re exercising.”

Ansong recommends that people 18 years old and younger get an hour of exercise a day.

Editor’s note: Bronny James experienced a cardiac arrest. This story has been corrected. 

Dick Uliano

Whether anchoring the news inside the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center or reporting from the scene in Maryland, Virginia or the District, Dick Uliano is always looking for the stories that really impact people's lives.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up