Heart condition causes Penn State freshman to retire from football

Penn State freshman offensive lineman Nana Asiedu will not play football due to a heart condition. (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images)

Nana Asiedu will not play football for Penn State.

The freshman offensive lineman announced Wednesday night that because it was recently discovered he has hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a genetic heart condition, he cannot continue his football career. The 6-foot-4, 294-pound Asiedu, who recently arrived on campus, will remain on full scholarship at Penn State and remain with the team in another role.

“It has been determined Nana Asiedu is not able to play football for Penn State University due to medical reasons,” the school said in a statement. “We will honor his scholarship as he pursues his degree from Penn State. While this is difficult news, we are excited to have Nana continue to be a major part of our Penn State football family.”

NCAA rules allow players with medical conditions to remain on scholarship while not counting toward a football program’s allotment of 85 scholarships.

“This is one reason why I chose Penn State because of the security and they’ll never go back on their word,” Asiedu wrote in a message posted on Twitter. “This is truly a curse and a blessing and I just thank God for giving me this opportunity that I will never take for granted.”

What is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy?

According to the American Heart Association, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy causes the heart to work very hard to pump blood and can lead to sudden cardiac arrest in young athletes.

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy occurs if heart muscle cells enlarge and cause the walls of the ventricles (usually the left ventricle) to thicken. The ventricle size often remains normal, but the thickening may block blood flow out of the ventricle. If this happens, the condition is called obstructive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

Sometimes the septum, the wall that divides the left and right sides of the heart, thickens and bulges into the left ventricle. This can block blood flow out of the left ventricle. Then the ventricle must work hard to pump blood. Symptoms can include chest pain, dizziness, shortness of breath, or fainting.

Based on the severity of the condition, Asiedu is lucky Penn State’s medical team discovered the issue.

Another player retired because of the same condition earlier this year

Earlier this year, another college football player — Florida defensive back Randy Russell — went through the same situation. Russell arrived at UF in January as an early enrollee, but shortly thereafter he was confronted with a hypertrophic cardiomyopathy diagnosis. Florida said “an abnormality in Russell’s cardiac workup” was discovered during his pre-participation physical. In a Twitter message, Russell revealed it to be hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

Gators coach Dan Mullen said the discovery could prove to be “life-saving” Russell. And like Asiedu at Penn State, UF kept Russell on full scholarship.

“As tragic as this is for Randy and his family to hear this news, this discovery is life-saving for him,” Mullen said. “We will be fully supportive in any way we can for Randy and his family. He will continue to be a part of the Gator football family and we will assist him in his academic pursuits at the University of Florida.”

Asiedu was one of Penn State’s top 2018 recruits

Penn State brought in the fifth-ranked class for the 2018 cycle. Of the 23 signees, Asiedu, a four-star prospect, was rated the eighth-best of that group by Rivals.com. The Stafford, Virginia, native was considered the 11th-best tackle and came in at No. 141 nationally.

He was one of four offensive linemen the Nittany Lions signed in the class along with four-star prospects Rasheed Walker and Juice Scruggs and three-star Bryce Effner.

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