DENVER - The list of professional coaches befallen by illness and disease linked to stress and pressure is lengthy, from Mike Ditka, then coach of the Chicago Bears in 1988, having a heart attack, to Urban Meyer walking away from the University of Florida football coaching job in 2009 citing health concerns. Stress takes its toll.
Most recently, Denver Broncos coach John Fox underwent heart surgery to replace an aortic valve, and Houston Texas head coach Gary Kubiak collapsed during halftime of a game against the Indianapolis Colts. Kubiak was taken by ambulance to a hospital where he reportedly was given a drug used to treat strokes.
"It is different with each guy. I've seen any number of guys buckle under that kind of demand and pressure, because you care what people think," former CU football coach Bill McCartney said.
McCartney says the intense pressure is made worse by the long hours required of a coach during a football season. In addition, a poor diet and lack of sleep aggravate the problem.
"As the head coach in particular, because it is more demanding on you you've got to find balance. You've got to exercise. You've got to watch what you eat, and you've got to spend your time wisely and if you don't it will take its toll," McCartney said.
Medical research has linked high stress environments to a number of physical illnesses and diseases.
"Stress has a sundry different effect on the human body depending on the given person. It can provide for hypertension and hypertension provides a risk for stroke, renal failure and a sundry number of other medical problems," said Dr. Robert Neumann, director of the neurologic and neurosurgical intensive care unit at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center.
While stress related health problems gain national attention when they affect professional coaches, the issue is also significant for any individual in a high stress profession.
"I am an example of that," Dr. Neumann said. "Roughly seven years ago I had an event right here in the hospital when I had a crushing chest pain and one of my fellow doctors did a cardio angiogram on me very, very quickly. I was under a lot of stress at that time."
Kubiak, a former Denver Bronco quarterback and assistant coach is 52 years old. When he collapsed on the field complaining of being dizzy and lightheaded he was immediately taken to a hospital and administered tissue plasminogen activator, a drug designed to breakup blood clots.
Doctors at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center emphasis the importance of getting treatment as soon as possible if a stroke is suspected.
"Those situations are time critical. We have a very limited time frame in order to treat people with an acute stroke and even just getting to the hospital quickly isn't enough, because there is a certain amount of evaluation that has to go on in order to give the medications that are used to treat patients with strokes safely," Dr. William Jones said, co-director of the stroke program at University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. "It is really important to get to the hospital as quickly as possible because once you've missed that opportunity it is gone."
Dr. Jones says anyone experiencing signs or symptoms of a stroke should immediately call 911.
Those signs and symptoms include numbness or weakness on one side of the body or the other, loss of vision to one side or the other and difficulty speaking or understanding what others are saying to them.
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