Stroke of bad luck?
Popular goaltender's stroke raises questions about brain injury
March 7, 2002
Imagine you are walking in the street one day and feel a severe headache coming on.
You tell yourself you have not experienced anything like it before. You eventually
decide to go to a hospital. A brain scan shows signs of stroke. You are shocked,
thinking strokes only happen to older people, not a healthy, active individual.
News that Iran's former national goaltender, Ahmadreza Abedzadeh,
has been stricken by a serious stroke rippled through the Iranian communities around
the world this week. Apparently during routine practice, the popular Abedzadeh experienced
After being shuffled from one hospital to the next, he was eventually diagnosed with
a hemarrhagic stroke. He was quickly operated on by one of Iran's top neurosurgeons,
Dr. Abbasiyoun. The drama can make for an episode of an Iranian version of "ER".
Sadly for Abedzadeh and his family, this tragedy raises the question, How can this
happened to an athlete in top physical shape? Could it be because of repetitive trauma
to the brain, such as being struck to the head by a soccer ball?
Unfortunately people are not as aware about the danger and causes of strokes as they
are about heart attacks. However, a stroke can be as serious, if not more serious,
than a heart attack if not treated early or adequately.
There are basically two types of stroke, ischemic and hemorrhagic. An ischemic stroke
occurs due to a blockage of one of the arteries that supplies blood to the brain.
This blockage is usually caused by small plaques deposited in the lining of the arteries.
Once these plaques break off, they may travel to the brain and block an artery.
Blocking an artery means the blood supply to a specific
part of the brain is compromised. Lack of blood supply, i.e oxygen and nutrients,
will eventually kill brain cells. Our brain is a delicate organ in that a blockage
to any part could cause various problems. For example it could affect speech, perception
So how can we prevent an ischemic stroke? We must do the same type of things we do
to prevent the risk of heart attacks, mainly reduce the formation of plaque through
diet and exercise That means eating less fatty foods which could harden the wall
of the arteries and increase the risk of both strokes and heart attacks.
On the other hand, a hemorrhagic stroke is not caused by a blockage but the rupture
of an artery, causing internal bleeding and damage to brain tissue. This may be the
type of stroke suffered by Abedzadeh. The causes of this type of stroke are usually
high blood pressure, infection, cancer, or head trauma.
Assuming that Abedzadeh does not have any of the known risk factors, could his stroke
have occurred due to head trauma? Will repeated hits by soccer balls cause delicate
arteries in the brain to rupture?
We know that hard blows to the head in boxing competitions
cause this type of injury. Tough leather balls traveling at speeds of up to 90 kilometers
per hour could certainly inflict damage. Recent research has suggested that young
boys who play soccer are more prone to head injury.
Never ignore severe, long-lasting headaches that feel different from previous ones.
I hope Abedzadeh recovers soon and returns to being Iran's top goaltender again.
Dr. Etminan is a pharmaceutical researcher at the University of Toronto. His recent
findings on a new class of drugs that may prevent headache will be published in the
June 2002 issue of the American Journal of Medicine.