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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    MRI: Lute suffered from stroke

    Dr. Steven D. Knope informs the media in McKale  Center on Tuesday that Lute Olson suffered a stroke sometime within the past year, while Olsons daughter, Jody Brase, looks on. The stroke was most likely caused from a blood clot that traveled from Olsons heart to his brain, Knope said.
    Dr. Steven D. Knope informs the media in McKale Center on Tuesday that Lute Olson suffered a stroke sometime within the past year, while Olson’s daughter, Jody Brase, looks on. The stroke was most likely caused from a blood clot that traveled from Olson’s heart to his brain, Knope said.

    Lute Olson suffered from a stroke within the last year, which resulted in depression and a change in judgment, his physician said Tuesday.

    Dr. Steven D. Knope ran an MRI Monday afternoon and told the Hall-of-Fame coach the news at his home Monday evening.

    Knope, who addressed the media in McKale Center Tuesday afternoon with Olson’s daughters Jody Brase and Christi Snyder and grandson Matt Brase, said Olson is not impaired physically and he has not suffered from dementia.

    “”Unlike a typical stroke, as you can imagine, where someone is unable to walk or talk or move a limb, this stroke occurred in the front of his brain where much of his intellectual function and all of his motor function is perfectly normal,”” Knope said. “”So it wasn’t quite apparent.””

    Knope said Olson has experienced a recurring irregular heartbeat that appears intermittently, called atrial fibrillation. It’s the most common type of irregular heart rhythm in the United States, according to The Cleveland Clinic, which is a Cleveland-area hospital that specializes in cardiovascular care.

    Olson first experienced an atrial fibrillation eight years ago, when he had a sudden heartbeat of 170 beats per minute – at least 70 beats per minute faster than the average adult. He was on a team trip to play against the Washington Huskies and called his doctor in Tucson, Knope said. They made some phone calls for him to pick up some medication on the road.

    “”He went on to coach the Seattle game and nobody knew about it,”” Knope said. “”He came back and was treated here at the University of Arizona. He didn’t have another recurrence for about six years.””

    The most likely cause of the stroke was a clot that traveled from Olson’s heart to his brain, the doctor said.

    Instead of all the heart muscles contracting together to keep the blood in the heart flowing, as in an average healthy heart, atrial fibrillation causes the muscles to “”quiver,”” said Dr. Jeremy R. Payne, UA assistant professor of neurology and medical director of the University Medical Center Stroke Center.

    “”If blood (in the heart) isn’t vigorously moving around, it tends to stagnate and it tends to form clots,”” Payne said, adding that a piece of the clot may move up the arteries to the brain.

    Olson had a mental status examination on Sunday, Knope said, and was asked a series of questions to test how well his brain was working.

    “”Remarkably, he scored almost perfect,”” Knope said.

    When Olson had his first press conference on April 1 following his season-long leave of absence, he was off of anti-depression medication and was cleared to return to work. The coach said his blood pressure was 113/65 and his resting heart rate was 60.

    “”I’ll put my physical condition up against anybody,”” he said at the time.

    “”He was feeling great, he was on cloud nine; he was telling me how excited he was to get back to basketball,”” Knope said.

    Olson went back on antidepressants within the last few weeks, but “”he simply didn’t respond,”” Knope said.

    “”I became concerned that he may have a tumor in the frontal lobe or a stroke,”” Knope said.

    Though Olson’s stroke was considered by Knope to be a subacute stroke – meaning it wasn’t recognized immediately – he is now a statistic.

    In the United States, there are about 700,000 people who suffer from strokes each year. Of those cases, 200,000 are repeat strokes, Payne said.

    Nearly 160,000 people die from strokes in the U.S. each year.

    “”I think it’s awfully scary. A stroke can mean a lot of things,”” said Josh Pastner, a former assistant coach and player under Olson. “”There’s a lot of things that come with a stroke. Obviously it can result in death or other permanent damage.””

    Pastner said he’s thankful Olson took such good care of himself physically over the years.

    “”I think because of his great health, the way he eats and exercises and the way he took care of his body so well, who knows if that minor stroke goes into a major stroke,”” Pastner said.

    Added former five-year Wildcat Kirk Walters, who was training in McKale Center Tuesday: “”He was in the weight room, he was on the elliptical (machine). He was the healthiest 70-year-old I’ve ever seen.””

    Olson stayed home Tuesday and is currently on a blood thinner, which Payne said takes away about 80 percent of the risk of having another stroke for atrial fibrillation patients.

    Knope said Olson does not have Parkinson’s disease, but rather he has a benign condition called a familial tremor, which causes involuntary shaking and trembling of the voice.

    “”It is very common,”” Knope said. “”It is not Parkinson’s disease. It never was. Again, all of this gets distorted when you’re dealing with a celebrity.””

    Though it is not reassurance by any means, the discovery of Olson’s stroke does provide some answers to the coach’s recent behavior, Knope said.

    “”I think a stroke, and a stroke in this part of the brain, explains a lot of things that were previously unexplainable,”” Knope said.

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