31-year-old Rich Peverley of the Dallas Stars is on his way back to Dallas, but his playing future in the NHL is now uncertain. Peverley collapsed early in the first period of a game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on March 10 shortly after finishing a shift. He was carried from the bench, given CPR, and had a defibrillator used in order to treat the cardiac events (both a racing heartbeat and a stopped one) as fans sat watching stunned. Peverley had a heart surgery performed on him Tuesday at the prestigious Cleveland Clinic in Ohio to correct an irregular heartbeat.
The irregular or abnormal heartbeat, known as an arrhythmia, has six most common types. Those types include Tachycardia, Atrial Fibrillation (AF), Atrial Flutter (AFL), Bradycardia, Ventricular Fibrillation (VF), and Premature Contractions. Rich Peverley was diagnosed with an arrhythmia before the start of this season and after collapsing on the bench, needed surgery to correct the most common type of arrhythmia known as Atrial Fibrillation or AF. AF is a disorganized heart rhythm that happens in the upper chambers of the heart. It occurs when many unstable electrical propulsions misfire, at times increasing the heart rate to 200 or more beats per minute (BPM). Sometimes the cause of AF is unknown, but the most common causes of AF are results of other conditions that can affect the heart, like high blood pressure and coronary heart disease. The most common forms of treatment of AF are dependent upon the severity and goes as follows: Blood clot prevention, Rate control, and Rhythm Control (which are all controlled through prescribed medicines, changes in lifestyle, and possible procedures).
Peverley, after being traded from former NHL franchise Atlanta Thrashers to the Boston Bruins, truly made a splash on the scene after he helped the Bruins in the 2010-11 playoffs lift the Stanley Cup as he averaged nearly a point a game that playoff year. His consistent play continued despite seeing his 2011-12 season with the Bruins limited due to injury. Although his playoff play that year was spectacular having five points in seven games, he was traded to the Dallas Stars before the start of this year. Rich Peverley is also currently tied for fourth on the team in points and was third at the time of his collapse, however, his play is done for this year and with a diagnosed arrhythmia, it remains uncertain that he will ever get a chance to play again.
In 2005, Detroit Red Wings 25-year-old defenseman Jiri Fischer had a similar situation and surgery and was never able to play again. Treatment of AF is dependent upon the cause and hockey, thus far, has never been listed as a cause of Peverley’s AF. In fact, all the prevention signs point to hockey as almost a form of treatment in the way: it is an increase in exercise; needs a healthy diet in order to perform; and more than likely smoking is not a part of a hockey players lifestyle. However, from this day forward, it truly all depends on the severity of Peverley’s AF and how the doctors would like to go about treating it. But looking at it this way, one of the most common forms of preventing AF from occurring again is reducing stress (which hockey could most definitely cause from time to time) accompanied with a serious lifestyle change. The outlook for Rich Peverley’s chances to play in the NHL again will remain at uncertain for now, but weighing the causes, treatments and preventions of living with AF, chances look grim.
Commentary by Ryne Vyles