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August 12, 2014 at 8:00 AMComments: 1 Faves: 0

Basketball Star Isaiah Austin Brings Awareness to Marfan Syndrome

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The term Marfan syndrome was known to very few people outside the medical community and those affected by it... until the story of NBA hopeful Isaiah Austin hit.

The standout center for Baylor University was a projected first round pick in this year’s NBA draft. But that all changed when doctors at the NBA combine diagnosed him with Marfan syndrome.

Only one in every 5,000 people in the U.S. are affected by Marfan syndrome. It’s a genetic disorder of the connective tissue that affects the skeleton, lungs, eyes, heart and blood vessels.

After the diagnosis doused his NBA dreams, commissioner Adam Silver offered Austin a job, with the stipulation that he finished his undergraduate degree at Baylor.

In what’s being referred to as the “Austin effect,” last month’s 30th annual conference of the Marfan Foundation saw record turnout. The organization’s website went from about 65,000 visits in May to nearly 470,000 in June.

Granted, the interest by the general public will wane, but the effect of this high profile discussion should be positive. For one, there have been reports of requests for being checked for the condition. And since early diagnosis is so important, lives can be saved.

So, what should you do if you think you or someone you know may possibly have Marfan syndrome? A doctor can provide a complete physical examination. Then tests can be performed to identify Marfan features that are not visible. For instance, a cardiologist can perform an echocardiogram, which involves examining the heart, its valves, and the aorta.

You don’t “get” Marfan syndrome, you are born with the condition. But the signs reveal themselves at different times for different people. Since early diagnosis is so important, knowing the signs is equally important.

  • Tall and thin body
  • Long arms, legs and fingers
  • Crowded teeth- Joint flexibility
  • Sinking or protruding chest

Every person is affected by Marfan syndrome differently and at different times of their lives. Austin wasn’t aware until weeks before his dream job as an NBA player could become a reality. But seeing the offer he got from the league’s top brass, being diagnosed isn’t a death sentence.

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1 Comment

  • Jason, Thanks for this article. Your readers should also know what the signs of Marfan syndrome are, how to get diagnosed, how to find expert medical care, and where they can get support. The Marfan Foundation's website (marfan.org) has all that information. The nurse in our help center can also answer questions. In addition, readers should know that you can live a normal lifespan with Marfan - as long as you are diagnosed, treated, and follow lifestyle modifications (such as no competitive or contact sports). As Director of Communications for The Marfan Foundation, I truly appreciate you (and everyone else) for increasing awareness of this condition.

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