Apr 18, 2012, 5:46 PM EST
In September of 2010, Washington announced that Tyreese Breshers, then a redshirt sophomore, would be retiring from basketball for “medical reasons”.
What those medical reasons were, precisely, was never announced. Breshers fractured his shin as a senior in high school and needed surgery to insert a rod through his patella tendon and into his shin bone. Sounds painful, right? Well, it was. It cost him the 2008-2009 season and left him gimpy the following year. He started 12 games, but ended the year averaging just 3.0 points and 2.6 boards.
At the time, Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar said, “Any time you lose a family member it is tough. Tyreese was a big part of our program, but his long term well-being is much more important than the game of basketball. We are fortunate that he will be around our program and get his degree from the University of Washington.”
And get his degree he did, but it was the announcement Breshers made at last week’s basketball banquet that really struck a chord: the reason he retired from the sport had nothing to do with his bum knee and everything to do with the fact that he was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy heart disease, the same disease that killed Reggie Lewis and Hank Gathers, in the summer of 2010. Only those closest to Breshers and the Washington program knew before the banquet.
“I still get a lot of people come up to me saying, `Oh, sorry, man. Is it your leg? Is it this, is it that?’” Breshers told Gregg Bell of GoHuskies.com. “There was a lot of speculation. No one ever knew. … Answering those questions was hard for me.”
The danger of HCM is that, essentially, the heart muscle enlarges to the point that blood can no longer pass through it. In Bresher’s case, as Bell laid out, it took a while for Washington’d team doctors to determine he had the disease. Before his surgery in 2008, Breshers was tested to determine if his heart could handle the general anethesia and the results showed that he could have the potential for heart disease down the road. It took a year-and-a-half for Washington’s doctors — who are considered some of the best in the field of heart disease in the world — to determine that the potential was fulfilled and that Breshers happened to have HCM.
At the peak condition of his life, Breshers got his preseason physical upon his return to campus in late summer 2010. A couple days later, he was working out at the North Gym inside Hec Edmundson Pavilion with Huskies guard Scott Suggs - “I shot good that day, really good that day,” he says, smiling. He then walked downstairs and across the arena’s main floor to keep the appointment he had made that morning to see basketball trainer Pat Jenkins.
He was surprised to find Dr. Drezner in the trainer’s office, too. He got startled again when they closed the door behind him.
“OK, this is weird,” Breshers thought. “What’s going on?”
Drezner told the redshirt sophomore he had become one of that six percent of athletes whose hearts enlarged to cardiomyopathy.
“I thought it was a joke,” Breshers said Monday. “Or, I was thinking it was some kind of test (of his reaction), a survey or something.”
Seeing his career come to a screeching halt must have been devastating.
But hopefully Breshers realizes how lucky he is. HCM is a deadly disease, and he survived. And while he may not have a professional basketball career in front of him, he did get a degree which should set him up well for the future.
He’s got his whole life in front of him.
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