Arizona Cardinals defensive end JJ Watt apparently suffered atrial fibrillation on Wednesday. He had his heart shocked back into rhythm on Thursday and played in the Cardinals’ football game on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. Football is the ultimate “macho culture” sport, but did Watt take this a step too far?
I was just told somebody leaked some personal information about me and it’s going to be reported on today.
I went into A-Fib on Wednesday, had my heart shocked back into rhythm on Thursday and I’m playing today.
— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) October 2, 2022
Before this turns into some kind of political debate about the weakening of American values, this is about a sport and nothing more. If Watt was made aware of any potential health risks by playing in the game and he chose to play anyway, that’s on him.
The question we need answered is why?
It’s Week 4. It’s still early enough in the season that the Cardinals aren’t out of the playoff race. If an extra week of recovery would ensure no further issues, why not sit out? Even if there was “no risk” of further issue, why take the chance?
According to the Cleveland Clinic, atrial fibrillation (Afib) is an irregular heart rhythm that begins in the atria, the heart’s upper chamber. Symptoms include fatigue, heart palpitations, trouble breathing and dizziness. Atrial fibrillation is one of the most common arrhythmias. If untreated Afib can lead to a stroke.
We don’t know the specifics of Watt’s situation, regardless, atrial fibrillation is serious enough to maybe take a week off from playing a violent game like NFL football where the very nature of the sport causes many of the symptoms.
But this is the culture of sport, in particular football. It’s a “macho,” “tough guy” sport. Players wear the warrior label like a badge of honor. Despite the long term health implications. We’ve seen it with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive brain condition caused by repeated blows to the head and repeated episodes of concussion.
Football is an inherently violent game. There is no way to make it less violent, unless you remove the collision element. But then it wouldn’t be football in the form that more than 180 million fans enjoy week to week.
The other thing we don’t know is whom Watt is receiving his medical advice from. His own medical team or the Cardinals? Who shocked his heart back into rhythm? How long has he been suffering from atrial fibrillation? Did it show up in his annual team physical?
Watt is often called “Captain America” or seen as a superhero. That’s how fans see athletes. Super humans performing feats we mere mortals can only dream of. But the thing is they are human. Fragile and fallible humans just like us. Sometimes they need to be saved from themselves.
The culture of sport and football that they’ve adhered to their entire lives that likens the sport to war, when it isn’t, is a dangerous thing when it causes them to put their bodies at even more risk than they already do by playing the sport in the first place.
Maybe this is nothing and Watt will be fine. Maybe it’s something and he will find himself in bigger trouble down the line. Who knows. But will it have all been worth it? Time will tell.