Ronny Turiaf Fights For Mandatory Heart Screenings
by: Brian Marschhauser
When news broke in March that 16-year-old Fenville basketball star Wes Leonard died on the court from an enlarged heart, it was a tragedy tough for anybody to stomach. For Ronny Turiaf, the story hit even closer to home.
Shortly after Turiaf was drafted to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2005, a physical revealed something that suddenly turned basketball into an afterthought. Team doctors discovered that he had an enlarged aortic root in his heart.
“It was eye-opening experience for me to finally accomplish my goal, and then, to have it taken away in a matter of seconds,” said Turiaf. Despite the diagnosis, he made his NBA debut with the Lakers in February of 2006, a little over six months after successfully undergoing open-heart surgery.
Having played basketball his entire life unaware of any issues with his heart, Turiaf realized that if this could happen to him, it could happen to anyone. “I promised myself that if I was financially and physically able, I would create my own heart foundation,” said Turiaf, who did just that.
In August 2009, the Ronny Turiaf Heart to Heart Foundation was established. With his foundation, Turiaf hopes to spread awareness and raise money to provide medical services for children without health insurance.
Some of these services, which include EKG’s and defibrillators, suddenly became hot topics for debate following Leonard’s death. Many wondered if all high school athletes should be forced to undergo an extensive screening process before being able to play.
“[It] was a very unfortunate incident that I always feared I would read about,” said Turiaf, who hopes that with his foundation’s efforts, heart conditions in young athletes will be caught early on early thus preventing others from suffering a similar fate to Leonard. “I have tried to associate myself with senators to help pass laws in California to make it mandatory to have defibrillators in high schools, but this is a long process.
“Heart screening needs to be mandatory and with the technology we have today, heart surgery is not as traumatic as it was 20 years ago. We all need to think about the bigger picture.”
Turiaf is now in his sixth season in the NBA and in his first with the New York Knicks. With the lack of frontcourt depth on Knicks squad, Turiaf’s interior defense and energy off the bench has been crucial to Knicks success this season, as they prepare to make their first post-season appearance since 2004.
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Used Courtesy of Sports Haze