| ||LOS ANGELES -- Wilt Chamberlain's medical problems included
an irregular heartbeat that left him hospitalized for three days in
1992 and a recent 50-pound weight loss following dental surgery.
It's too early to determine what caused the former basketball
star's death Tuesday, but heart problems compounded by stress can
be fatal, said Jaime Moriguchi, co-director of the clinical heart
failure program at UCLA.
Chamberlain recently underwent dental surgery to remove teeth
knocked aside during his basketball career, said his sister,
Barbara Lewis. He had dropped about 50 pounds in the last month,
"He said it was the worst pain. I never heard him complain
about pain ever," she said during a news conference. "He said he
felt worse than he ever did Saturday. He looked worse than I have
ever seen him."
"He did have some problems and we think at this point it may
have been a heart attack that did him in," said Sy Goldberg,
If that is the case, it is possible he suffered from ventricular
arrhythmia, an irregular beat in the heart's lower chamber, the
body's main blood pump.
"It causes very chaotic electrical activity. The heart cannot
pump effectively at all," Moriguchi said. "At that point, you
pass out and you die unless something is quickly done about it."
Without medical attention, patients die within six minutes.
Chamberlain's health became an issue in the 1960s, when his
former coach with the then-San Francisco Warriors was quoted as
saying Chamberlain might have had a heart attack before the 1964
season. Chamberlain denied it.
In 1992, Chamberlain was hospitalized for three days after
complaining of a "slightly" irregular heartbeat. Doctors said it
was difficult to keep him in the hospital after the problem was
His course of treatment was not made public.
Causes of arrhythmia include coronary heart disease in which the
vessels supplying blood to the heart are narrowed and the muscle
becomes damaged by the lack of nutrients.
Viruses and long-standing hypertension also can damage the heart
and cause irregular beating, Moriguchi said.
About 350,000 sudden cardiac deaths occur in the United States
every year. The condition can be treated with drugs, electrical
shock and even burning of part of the heart tissue.
Like most players, Chamberlain had several injuries during his
14 NBA seasons, including a torn tendon in his right knee in 1969.
Three years later, he led the Los Angeles Lakers to their first NBA
championship despite a chipped bone in his right wrist.
The 7-foot-1 center, whose weight was listed by the NBA at 275
pounds during his playing years, retired in 1973.|| |
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