A frightening moment on the college basketball court occurred on Saturday when a healthy, active, 19-year-old player with no health history collapsed during a game.
Virginia’s Old Dominion Imo Essien noted he couldn’t believe he was in Saturday’s game one minute and on the floor the next.
Speaking to WTKR-TV Norfolk on Tuesday, a recovered Essien said:
“This doesn’t happen, especially for someone like me. I’ve been playing basketball all my life.”
Essien also expressed his complete surprise during a brief interview with The Virginian-Pilot: “Me?” Essien said incredulously. “Nineteen years old and healthy? Living how I’m living? I compete every day. … So why me?”
Essien, a sophomore, collapsed without warning during Saturday’s match-up with Georgia Southern University. According to the New York Post, Essien collapsed and tried to get up but fell again. Trainers and teammates immediately surrounded the downed player.
After initial assessments, trainers helped Essien walk off the court.
Officials note that Essien did not “blackout.”
Essien did not play for the rest of the game but did return later to watch some of the second half of play.
Speculation abounds as a rash of unexplained ailments seems to be plaguing the most healthy demographic. RTM previously reported how three students collapsed and died suddenly in the past week.
Essien said there was little leading up to his collapse but noted having trouble breathing in the last moments before he fell to the floor.
“It was very hard to breathe. I felt like I couldn’t catch my wind, and at the end there, right before I went down, it just felt like all my wind was gone,” he said.
Essien’s Old Dominion coach, Jeff Jones, told the Virginian-Pilot: “It was scary as hell. Particularly in light of the [Buffalo Bill’s Damar] Hamlin situation … I think the worst kind of flashed through everybody’s minds.”
Jones added: “Obviously we had Imo in our minds, trying to coach a game and trying to comfort the players all at one time. That was something that I hope I never have to deal with again.”
Cardiologists and other experts have not offered a definitive ruling on what caused Essien to collapse.
Essien participated in a light practice on Tuesday but has yet to receive the all-clear from medical staff to participate in games.
Jones told WTKR: “I’m waiting until the cardiologist, the pulmonologist and whoever the heck else it is … if they all give the thumbs up then that’s great. If they want to wait, then we wait.”
Essien noted that he feels good and is anxious to play again:
“I’m jealous of these guys. These guys get to go out there and play ball. They get to play and compete against somebody else, and I wish I could be doing that, but at the same time, I understand what just happened.”
“I feel like I’m just like these guys, so why me?” he said, adding, “You get those type of questions, but at the end of the day, I trust God and my family and my teammates, and I know that this will all pass and I’ll be back on that court.”