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Life lessons from hockey player's collapse



Rich Peverley is a center for the Dallas Stars hockey team.  He had a procedure before the start of the season to correct an irregular heartbeat.  However, he "felt strange" after a game on March 3, then missed the Stars' game on March 4.  

On March 10, he collapsed while sitting on the bench waiting to return to the game.  A physician said later, "We treated him for a cardiac event successfully.  We provided oxygen for him.  We started an IV. We did chest compressions and defibrillated him, providing some electricity to bring a rhythm back to his heart."  He regained consciousness and was transported to the hospital.

When he collapsed, the game was halted immediately.  Players fell to a knee as a hush fell over the crowd.  The game was eventually postponed.

Peverley is a world-class athlete.  He has played hockey since growing up in Ontario, and has been in the National Hockey League for 10 years.  He was named to the Canadian national team for the 2010 World Championship.  After his heart procedure before the season, he was monitored by team physicians.  And yet he collapsed during the game.

Fortunately, Peverly did not die. However, I wondered what other famous athletes died in their prime.  It turns out, many are on the list.  For instance, skier Sarah Burke would have been favored to win the gold medal at the 2014 Olympics in SuperPipe.  She was a six-time X Games champion in the event, and convinced the International Olympic Committee to add SuperPipe to the Olympics.  In 2012, she crashed during a training run and died.

Jim Fixx authored the 1977 bestseller, The Complete Book of Running, and helped popularize jogging around the world.  He died at the age of 52 from a heart attack after his daily run.  Dale Earnhardt won 76 NASCAR races, including seven championships.  He was racing in the 2001 Daytona 500 when his car collided with the wall and another car.  He was flown to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead.  Sean Taylor was the fifth overall pick in the NFL Draft and played in two Pro Bowls as a member of the Washington Redskins.  In November 2007 an intruder broke into his home and shot him in the leg; the next day he died from massive blood loss.

Drazen Petrovic was one of the best shooting guards in the NBA, averaging 22.3 points per game.  In 1993, he was riding in a car in Germany when it collided with a truck; he was killed instantly.  Golfer Payne Stewart won 11 PGA Tour events, including three major championships.  He was killed in 1999 when his private airplane depressurized and crashed.  

What are we to learn from their stories?  One wrong answer, of course, is that all sports are inherently dangerous.  Many of these world-class athletes died of causes unrelated to sports.  Others had congenital health issues that would have caused their deaths whether they participated in athletics or not.

A lesson we can learn is that tomorrow is guaranteed to no one.  One Sunday morning, I spoke on the need to be ready for judgment today.  That evening, an older couple in our congregation thanked me for the message and told me that they had prayed together that afternoon, confessed their sins, and prepared their hearts to meet God whenever he called them home.  The next morning, the wife had a heart attack and died.  The next day I received a thank-you note from her in the mail.  She wrote and posted it Sunday afternoon in case she did not see me that night.  I read it at her memorial service on Wednesday.

Paul reminds us that "now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:2).  If today were your last day, would you be ready?



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