Athlete's sudden death puts heart disease back on map

By Rachel McNeill - Anchor

PEARLAND, Texas - Grief counselors held their doors open Thursday at Dawson High School in Pearland after the sudden death of a promising athlete.

Pearland Independent School District officials said 17-year-old Folabi Akanbi was playing a game of pick-up basketball outside Silver Lake Elementary School on Wednesday when he collapsed and later died.

At 6-feet 5-inches, 290 pounds, Akanbi was a force on and off the field and was on his way to play college football for Montana State.

His teammate, Trey, said, "He was a great guy, a great friend, a great teammate."

Akanbi's death comes just three weeks after 15-year-old Jacob Simmons of College Station High died suddenly during a game of dodge ball.

One in 500 young people has an undetected genetic heart condition called hypertrophic myopathy, the thickening of the heart muscle.

Doctors have been at odds over whether screening for such abnormalities is cost effective.

Some said it's like finding a needle in a haystack, but others maintain it's worth it.

Dr. Silvana Lawrence, medical director of Texas Children's Hospital Community Cardiology, told Local 2, "We truly believe that this is something that can save lives."

Possible symptoms can include chest pain, lightheadedness, shortness of breath or fainting during exercise.

But, more often than not, there are no signs, which is what makes these heart conditions so worrisome.

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