You need not be a football fan to have empathy for the MSU coach, Mark Dantonio, who suffered a heart attack early Sunday morning. This man’s devotion to the young men he leads and their school is worthy of admiration for the example he has set of dedicated, loyal service. However, let it also be a wake-up call to the rest of us.
Coach Dantonio, age 54, like so many others, has had a sudden and unpleasant notice given to him that he has heart disease. When a public figure–especially one held in high esteem–is found to be thusly afflicted, the result is, frequently, that others of the same age group realize, “Oh my gosh, THAT could happen to ME, too!” So they race off to get a complete physical, start watching what’s on their daily menu, and join a gym. It can be hoped this lasts longer than their panic does.
An MSU student being interviewed by a mid-Michigan TV station remarked that he felt their team would now win more games as a rallying effect to show their support for the coash as he recovers from his surgery, from which he received a stent. Like the old Ronald Reagan movie, “Knute Rockne All American” (ironically, about a Notre Dame football legend–see http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0032676/) where the team was exhorted to “win one for the Gipper”, this, too, may be considered a beneficial spin-off.
The holistic side of all this is more than any of the above. It comes from the fact that-as many believe, among both armchair quarterbacks and others–Coach Dantonio’s heart attack may have been precipitated by excitement due to the phenomenal victory of the Spartans over their rivals from Notre Dame a short time earlier. Many physicians discount the notion of emotion as a factor in heart attacks. How can they ignore the effects of a rush of adrenaline on the heart? When you’re already worked-up over a tense situation–and everyone in Michigan knows how seriously college football is regarded, especially among MSU fans–it’s wrong to ignore the role of emotional stress in coronary disease.
Suggested methods of dealing with this matter should include relaxation therapy, not just for coaches, but anyone involved in high-stress activities. Yoga, meditation, visualization therapy, chanting, even herbs such as chamomile, valerian and catnip (which has the opposite effect on humans to that which it has on felines), area a sample of means to achieve a relaxed state. Keep track of blood pressure and heart rates; lower your caffeine, alcohol and tobacco intake; get lots of sleep prior to encountering the work or other situation where you’ll be facing fight-or-flight. Whether you’re an athlete, coach, firefighter, police officer, or airline pilot, lowering the risk of being sidelined (or even worse) by excessive stress on your heart is essential.
All best wishes for a speedy recovery to Mr. Dantonio.
To see more on this incident, see the Detroit News article: