The number one killer of young athletes today is undetected heart problems. This past Monday, cardiologists and doctors from the Stanford University School of Medicine challenged the 49ers to a pushup contest to help raise money for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy research. The genetic heart condition that causes thickening of the heart muscle is a serious issue and can lead to sudden death. All proceeds from the event went towards the Stanford Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Center.
"Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy has consistently been the most common cardiovascular cause of sudden death," said Euan Ashley, MD, director of the center. "We're here today to draw attention to the fact that this disease is responsible for sudden death in athletes, and also bring awareness to the benefits of screening in hospitals and Universities because it is, in fact, preventable."
Cardiologists and doctors were asked to sign up, form teams, raise money, and participate in a pushup challenge to test their strength against the 49ers assistant strength and conditioning coach Mark Uyeyama.
The event consisted of multiple heats between the doctors and a finale with Uyeyama on stage showing his pushup ability. Gold Rush cheerleaders demonstrated proper pushup technique as well and gave encouragement to participants as they helped push for the cure.
Despite Uyeyama's impressive 76 pushups in a row, he was beat out by one of the Stanford participants, Andrew Vu who powered through an outstanding 99 consecutive pushups.
Safety Michael Lewis and quarterback Alex Smith played a major role at the event as they helped support the cause serving as official counters for the pushups.
Following the contest, the group discussed the real issue at hand, fighting hypertrophic cadiomyopathy.
Lewis knows heart disease all too due to being unexpectedly diagnosed with atrial fibrillation as a freshman in college during a routine physical. He has since made it a priority to get involved and support research on heart disease as often as he can.
"I'm excited to be back again this year, and take part in this great fundraising event for cardiac research," said Lewis a nine-year veteran. "I have a heart condition and it's important for this research to continue. I hope this event will raise awareness to the issues of heart problems so people can better understand how to handle heart conditions and still live a healthy life."
Lewis spoke to the audience about his heart condition and encouraged everyone to be proactive to get their regular heart checkups. He also emphasized that even if you have a heart disease, you can still live an active, full life and urged everything to continue to exercise and live normally.
The pushup event raised over $15,000 to go towards research for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
Following the contest, Lewis, Smith, Uyeyama, along with rookies Nate Byham and Chris Maragos, Gold Rush Cheerleaders, team doctor Dr. Dan Garza and head athletic trainer Jeff Ferguson, headed inside the Stanford Medical Center Cardiac Care Unit to visit with patients with heart problems.
The group first conducted bedside visits to those who were not able to leave their rooms. They signed autographs, took pictures, helped put smiles on their faces and hopefully lifted the spirits of patients in a brave fight against heart disease.
"Being here today and seeing the brave fight these kids are facing, puts everything into perspective," Smith said, "It means a lot to see them smile."