Well, I didn't
know of any, and so I started doing some research while I was in the hospital.
I could only come up with three (present company excepted): Dave Stallworth of
the New York Knicks in 1967, John Hiller of the Detroit Tigers in 1971 and
Chuck Hughes of the Detroit Lions, also in 1971. Hughes died in the closing
minutes of a game. Hiller came back and is still playing, almost a decade
later, at the age of 36. Stallworth came back and played five more seasons in
the NBA. But apart from athletic flukes, like the four of us, there is, I found
out, a set of clinical symptoms for what has become known as "athlete's
heart." It is not a heart disease but a heart condition. The heart is
larger than average, there are strange-sounding heartbeats, and there are other
symptoms which for the average person would be cause for alarm, but are
perfectly routine for an intensely trained athlete. The trick is to subtract
the congenital and acquired heart disease from the total set of data. This is
not easy to do. It is difficult even for experienced doctors to tell exactly
what is wrong with an athlete's heart.
is itself increasingly becoming a specialization. I'm delighted with this
trend—and was long before I had my heart attack. Just as sports law presents a
unique set of problems within the legal profession, so does sports medicine
within its discipline. I'm not just talking about pro athletes, either. The
ills and ailments of high school and college athletes are important enough to
This is all said
with the understanding that my case would surely have defied diagnosis no
matter what the attending physicians' specialties were. I didn't get a heart
attack from playing tennis all my life. On the contrary, Dr. Scheidt explained
it was the other way around. My good physical conditioning undoubtedly saved me
from what would have been a major heart attack.
At the time of my
attack I was ranked No. 7 in the world, and at my age I had had to pay an
especially high price to attain that rating, coming back as I did from my heel
operation and a long convalescence. So why go through that all over
again—especially since I don't plan to play competitive tennis more than
another two years or so?
simple, really. I'm not ready to stop. At my age it's fun playing tennis. I
know my competition, and obviously I can more than hold my own. My ranking will
drop a little between now and the time I get back on the tour, and it will be
my aim to see if I can't get myself back up to No. 7 by, say, next Easter. I've
always been goal oriented, and for me that is a worthy goal. And I'm going to
chase every ball. I'm not going back scared.