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Mike Williams' collapse, January 1994

Jan. 29 Globe

UMass' Williams says he's OK after hospital stay
By Mark Blaudschun, The Boston Globe Staff, 1/29/1994

CINCINNATI – Mike Williams made the diagnosis his teammates wanted to hear yesterday morning.

“I'm safe, I'm safe,” said the University of Massachusetts guard, who spent Thursday night in a Cincinnati hospital after collapsing during the second half of the Minutemen's 76-74 loss to the University of Cincinnati. “Everything checked out and I'm all right.”

Williams rejoined his teammates at the Cincinnati airport and flew home with the rest of the Minutemen after undergoing a battery of tests and being examined by doctors. They were attempting to determine what caused Williams to collapse at midcourt with 12:41 remaining in the second half with what appears to be a case of dehydration and exhaustion.

“All tests have been negative thus far,” said UMass basketball trainer Ron Laham, who brought Williams to the airport minutes before the team was scheduled to return to Amherst. “The doctors wanted to make sure that it was safe for Mike to travel. The next step is to determine when it's safe for him to play again, so the doctors back at school will run some more tests in the next 24 hours. If everything is 'clean,' he'll be allowed to play.”

Williams looked and sounded tired yesterday. “I didn't get any sleep at all,” he said. “They kept giving me shots and taking blood all night. And then in the morning, they did more tests and made me go on a treadmill.”

Williams said he doesn't remember passing out on the court. “I was real tired and I started to get dizzy,” said Williams, who added he had taken Nyquil, an over-the-counter medication, to counteract flu-like symptoms. “I started to raise my fist in the air the signal to the UMass bench that he wanted to come out of the game. The next thing I remembered is walking back by the Cincinnati locker room.”

Williams did not remember falling with a thud that could be clearly heard at midcourt, nor does he remember coach John Calipari running onto the court and putting his hand on Williams heart to see that it was beating regularly.

The immediate fear, of course, was that the 6-foot-2-inch junior guard was having heart problems similar to the ones Celtic captain Reggie Lewis experienced when he collapsed during an NBA playoff game against Charlotte last April.

“That never really crossed my mind,” said Williams. “I really don't think about things like that. I just knew that I was tired and I wanted to take a rest.”

Laham, who spent a busy night and morning checking on Williams' status at the hospital, had more concerns when he checked Williams on the court.

“I didn't see him fall because someone was in front of me,” said Laham. “But when I went out to see what was wrong and saw that it wasn't an ankle or a knee which had caused him to go down, I started to get worried and I began thinking about Hank Gathers and Reggie Lewis each of whom subsequently died of heart-related problems.”

Williams' collapse also gave his relatives in Hartford a scare.

“They were watching the game on television ESPN, and all the announcers were saying was that I had fainted and was being taken to the hospital,” said Williams. “Once I got to the hospital and had a chance to call them and tell them I was all right, they felt much better.”

Williams said he feels fine and wants to play tomorrow afternoon when the Minutemen host Rhode Island at the Mullins Center. “I really feel OK,” he said. “It was nothing but dehydration.”

But he also conceded that he is expressing an opinion most athletes have regarding their condition.

“I know all athletes say they are all right,” he said. “Because they want to play. And I want to play.”

In light of the Gathers and Lewis tragedies, UMass officials are being extremely cautious, which is why Williams will undergo another series of tests, including possibly having his heart monitored for 24 hours, before he is allowed to resume playing.

Jan. 30 Globe

Tests keep Williams out
By Mark Blaudschun, The Boston Globe Staff, 1/30/1994

University of Massachusetts guard Mike Williams, who collapsed during the second half of a 76-74 loss to Cincinnati last Thursday, will miss today's game against the University of Rhode Island as doctors conduct more tests to determine what caused him to faint.

Although tests taken when Williams was admitted to a Cincinnati hospital that night were negative, UMass doctors are being extremely cautious before clearing the 6-foot-2-inch guard to resume playing.

“Initial tests performed in Cincinnati revealed no significant abnormality, but no explanation for the fainting episode has been determined,” said UMass team physician James Ralph in a statement released by the school yesterday.

Williams checked into UMass Medical Center in Worcester last night and will undergo more extensive tests to find a more definitive cause for his collapse, which was initially thought to be brought on by dehydration.

“Mike had been suffering from an upper respiratory infection for several days prior to the game and probably had not taken in as many fluids as he should have,” said Ralph. “Dehydration is as likely as anything, but we want to be sure.”

Williams was examined in Cincinnati by John Runyon, a cardiologist at University Hospital, who recommended more specialized tests. One of those will have Williams connected to a heart monitor for 24 hours to check for abnormalities.

UMass officials said Williams will not participate in any practice or games pending the test results.

Jan. 31 Globe

More tests for Williams
By Joe Burris, The Boston Globe Staff, 1/31/1994

AMHERST – University of Massachusetts guard Mike Williams underwent more tests yesterday at UMass Medical Center in Worcester and may undergo more today.

Williams, a junior from Hartford, collapsed on the court Thursday night at Cincinnati. He spent that night at University Hospital there, but was discharged the next day and returned to Amherst with his teammates.

Dr. John Runyon, the cardiologist who evaluated Williams in Cincinnati, recommended additional specialized tests and called for further cardiology consultation as soon as possible.

Yesterday, Williams underwent an echocardiogram, an electrophysiology test and was observed on a treadmill. “Initial tests performed in Cincinnati revealed no significant abnormality, but no explanation for his fainting episode has been determined,” UMass team physician James Ralph said yesterday.

Ralph has not been informed of the results of yesterday's tests. He added that Williams was tested on the treadmill in Cincinnati, but could not perform to his maximum because of game fatigue.

Williams will not participate in practice sessions or in games pending test results.

Feb. 1 Globe

Doctors continue to study Williams
By Joe Burris, The Boston Globe Staff, 2/1/1994

University of Massachusetts junior guard Mike Williams continues to undergo tests at UMass Medical Center in Worcester as doctors try to determine what caused him to collapse on the court last Thursday in Cincinnati.

UMass officials said yesterday that Williams will undergo a magnetic resonance imaging on his chest today. Yesterday, he underwent a tilt-table test (to try to induce fainting) and a cardiac catheterization. Williams tested negative on both, said team physician James Ralph and intern Constance Lentz.

“So far, all tests have been nondiagnostic,” they said. “The doctors would like to do additional studies.”

Williams, who is from Hartford, collapsed after experiencing dizziness during the Cincinnati game and spent Thursday night at University Hospital in Cincinnati. He was discharged in time to return to Amherst with the team Friday.

Dr. John Runyon, the cardiologist who evaluated Williams in Cincinnati, recommended additional specialized tests be performed and called for cardiology consultation as expeditiously as possible. Williams underwent several tests Sunday at UMass Medical Center.

The MRI was scheduled because Williams ran into the base of the basket after scoring on a layup prior to the collapse. The test would show any chest trauma.

“We are attempting to give him as clean a cardiac bill of health as quickly as possible,” said Ralph and Lentz. They added that in other cases when athletes collapsed during games (such as Reggie Lewis and Hank Gathers), abnormalities were detected. However, none have been detected in Williams' case to date.

Feb. 2 Globe

Cardiologist puzzles on Williams' collapse
By Joe Burris, The Boston Globe Staff, 2/2/1994

The cardiologist examining Mike Williams has not determined what caused the University of Massachusetts guard to collapse during a game last week and is now consulting other cardiologists, UMass officials said yesterday.

Williams, a junior from Hartford, collapsed after experiencing dizziness during the UMass-Cincinnati game last Thursday and spent that night at University Hospital in Cincinnati. He was discharged in time to return to Amherst with the team Friday.

Since then, Williams has been evaluated at UMass Medical Center in Worcester under the care of cardiologist Robert Mittlemen, but test results have shown no apparent cardiac abnormality.

“The cardiologist at UMass has completed the tests they planned to do,” said Constance Lentz, a university internist. “They have made extensive evaluations, and the tests here have all been negative. There is no explanation for the episode.”

Lentz said the data collected on Williams was given to another group of cardiologists, and that recommendations will be made as to when Williams can resume play, at what level and how extensively his heart should be monitored.

There has been talk about attaching a Holter monitor – a pager-sized device, usually worn for 24 hours, that records the heartbeat – to Williams, but no definite word has been given. Williams is also expected to be monitored at the UMass Fitness Center.

Feb. 3 Globe

Williams cleared for light practice
By Joe Burris, The Boston Globe Staff, 2/3/1994

University of Massachusetts guard Mike Williams, who collapsed during a game at Cincinnati last Thursday, has been cleared to resume light practice pending the outcome of two additional tests performed by cardiologists at UMass Medical Center, staff cardiologist Robert Mittleman said last night.

“There is no evidence of any serious or life-threatening heart rhythm problems,” said Mittleman. “We can't say with certainty what it was that caused Mike to pass out, but we feel he can resume practice in a highly supervised setting with a special heart monitoring device.”

Coach John Calipari said Williams won't play tonight against Florida State and may sit out Sunday against Kentucky.

Feb. 4 Globe

Williams to start practice today
By Joe Burris, The Boston Globe Staff, 2/4/1994

AMHERST – University of Massachusetts guard Mike Williams is scheduled to begin light practice today, marking his first action since he collapsed during a game at Cincinnati last week.

Williams, who collapsed after experiencing dizziness on the court and has since undergone extensive testing at the UMass Medical Center in Worcester as well as in Cincinnati, will wear a pager-sized heart device during individual workouts like shooting drills. He said he is also scheduled to undergo neurological tests.

“They're just trying to find out what happened. They don't know if it was my brain or what it was,” said Williams. “There are two easy tests neurologists say they want to do to see if there is anything there.”

Feb. 5 Globe

Mixup prevents Williams from practicing
By Joe Burris, The Boston Globe Staff, 2/5/1994

AMHERST – University of Massachusetts guard Mike Williams suited up at practice yesterday for the first time since collapsing on the court in a game last week, but did not work out with the team because the heart monitoring device he needed during the workout was not available.

Williams, a junior from Hartford who collapsed after experiencing dizziness in the second half at Cincinnati last week, was cleared Thursday to perform light workouts after undergoing several tests in Cincinnati and at the UMass Medical Center in Worcester. He was scheduled to wear a pager-sized heart monitoring device during the workouts.

Team physician James Ralph said last night that because of a mixup, “the monitoring device wasn't available, and that was one of the things we were going to be testing with while he was shooting and going through up and down the court.” The heart monitoring is one of the tests that must be administered before Williams can be cleared to play again.

Williams stepped onto the court about an hour after practice began and took jump shots at one end of the court while his teammates practiced at the other end. Then he returned to the training room.

Williams will not play tomorrow when No. 11 UMass meets No. 7 Kentucky at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J.

Feb. 10 Globe

Williams can play tonight
By Joe Burris, The Boston Globe Staff, 2/10/1994

University of Massachusetts junior guard Mike Williams, who collapsed on the court during a game two weeks ago, has been cleared by university doctors to return to the team and is expected to see action tonight against Rhode Island, UMass officials said yesterday.

In a statement, UMass doctors say that although they cannot fully determine why Williams collapsed with 12:41 remaining against the University of Cincinnati Jan. 27, subsequent testing revealed “no evidence of any danger in his return.”

UMass coach John Calipari said Williams will not start tonight but will play, and his time will depend on his physical conditioning.

Williams, UMass' No. 2 scorer, underwent an “extensive battery of tests, many of which evaluated his cardiac function,” said Dr. Robert S. Mittleman of UMass Medical Center in Worcester. Williams was examined by Mittleman and three outside expert cardiologists.

“The testing revealed no evidence of any serious or life-threatening cardiac condition or heart rhythm abnormalities,” Mittleman said.

The reason behind Williams' collapse is still uncertain. “The most likely explanation is a spell of vaso-vagal syncope common fainting, which occurred in association with a mild respiratory infection and dehydration as well as the extreme physical and mental stress of the basketball game,” said Mittleman.

“Williams was monitored extremely closely with heart monitoring equipment, as well as observation by a physician as he returned to practice, and there has been no further evidence of any abnormalities.”

Feb. 13 Globe

An exam break
By Joe Burris, The Boston Globe Staff, 2/13/1994

AMHERST – Two echocardiograms, which record changes in the electrical energy of the heart cycle, didn't reveal a thing. Ditto two extensive workouts on the treadmill; University of Massachusetts guard Mike Williams trekked up a sweat but didn't move any closer to discovering why he collapsed face down on the court during a Jan. 27 game at Cincinnati.

So doctors at the UMass Medical Center in Worcester introduced Williams to cardiac catheterization. They placed dye in his coronary arteries (which supply blood to the heart) and inserted a tube through a blood vessel to the dye. That yielded another question mark.

Next came electrophysiology; a tube was inserted into Williams' leg and run up to his heart. No worries. Then came a tilt-table test; Williams was strapped to a table that was titled almost completely upright, to induce fainting. Negative; he didn't faint. So it was on to a magnetic resonance imaging of Williams' chest. Negative.

Then came an extensive workout with a pager-sized heart monitor attached to his body. Had Williams experienced any cardiac-related symptom while working out with the device, he could have pressed a button and the monitor would have recorded anything going on with his heart 2 1/2 minutes before and 2 1/2 minutes after Williams pressed. But Williams experienced no such symptoms. Two workout events were recorded on the monitor, anyway.

There were times the junior from Hartford admitted he was close to going from no worries to no mas. While others conjured up memories of the heart- related tragedies of Reggie Lewis and Hank Gathers, he kept insisting all along his collapse was triggered by a mild respiratory infection, dehydration, lack of sleep and diet. Though not always gung-ho about the testing, he endured approximately 10 major exams and several minor ones, at the UMass Medical Center and University Hospital in Cincinnati. The tests done in Cincinnati, echocardiogram and treadmill, were repeated in Worcester.

UMass cardiologist Robert Mittleman, who along with three outside expert cardiologists still cannot fully explain why Williams collapsed, concluded the most likely explanation was a common fainting spell and gave him clearance to return to the team last Wednesday. Mittleman added that there is a chance a person can test negative once and show different results later, but the probability is not great. There are no plans to test Williams further.

Guess who's pleased to hear that.

“It is all behind me now,” said Williams, who played in Thursday's game against the University of Rhode Island and is expected to see action today when the 11th-ranked Minutemen host eighth-ranked Temple.

“I wasn't even thinking about it at all on the court. It hasn't really been distracting. The only thing, I think, was the process of it was overlong. I think that got to me. But I fought through it, and I'm glad to be here.

“I never did think it was my heart. I just think I was dehydrated and I had the flu. I was real hot. I sweated a lot and I didn't have much fluids.”

Williams understands why the testing was so extensive; he is aware of the impact of the Lewis and Gathers tragedies.

“There was a couple of times when he didn't want the tests, but you have to do what you have to do,” he said. “I had to give a lot of cooperation with the doctors because of past instances with Hank Gathers and Reggie Lewis. I know that was going through their minds. They weren't too sure. They wanted to be completely sure that everything was going to be all right. I expected that.

“But because of those two incidences, they have to be real sure now. I know there's a lot of pressure on them to make the decision for me to come back and play.”

But Mittleman said Williams would have undergone such treatment regardless of the Lewis/Gathers tragedies.

“Our preliminary concern was that it was a faint, and we just wanted to test to be sure,” said Mittleman. “We just wanted to do a complete evaluation.”

UMass team physician James Ralph said, “When you don't have an exact explanation for the first incident, you have to be careful to make sure it doesn't replicate itself.”

Williams entered the URI game with 15:01 remaining in the first half to rousing applause. URI guard Abdul Fox scored on Williams seconds later. With 14:07 left, Williams went back to the bench.

He returned with 13:24 remaining. URI forward Andre Samuel stepped in front of Williams for a steal seconds later and Fox scored again. Williams came out at 12:46.

He reentered at 11:08, took his first shot (a missed 3-pointer from the right wing with 10:41 left), launched two more misses (the second an airball with 8:20 to go) and was out again at 8:15.

“Mike has to raise his intensity level to the rest of ours,” said UMass coach John Calipari. “Since he's been gone for two weeks, our practices have become spirited and our games have been wars.”

Williams played more continuously in the second half, finishing with 9 points (3-for-7 shooting) in 21 minutes. Not bad for a guy who was prohibited from playing basketball without supervision during his absence from the team.

“In the first half, I was tentative,” said Williams. “I was just getting out there trying to get into the flow of the game. I think their intensity was a little bit higher than mine. But in the second half, as soon as I got things going, I was patient enough to wait for my turn to score. They were doing a great job of defending me.”

Calipari was tentative about playing Williams, and thus had a quick hook.

“To be honest, I was happy I could run him in and then get him right out,” said Calipari. “When I ran him in again, he made a mistake, I said, 'Good, come out.'

“Part of it was him being a little nervous in the game and getting going. I didn't want him to have to play a lot of minutes right off the start, so it was kind of good the way it worked out.”

Calipari has been candid about his reticence to play Williams since the collapse, which led the coach to rush onto the court and feel Williams' heart to make sure it was still beating. He said he will never get that moment out of his system.

“It will always be in the back of my mind, always,” said Calipari, who despite the medical clearance will pay close attention to Williams. “I'm not going to be apt to play him as many minutes as I have in the past. I just don't feel comfortable doing that right now.

“I'm trying to be fair to Mike in that if he's been cleared and doctors say he's fine, I should let him go. But as a coach who is close to his players, it's hard. You just want to make sure. But he did good in Thursday's game and was fine in practice.”

Al Williams, Mike's father, said the ordeal has been exhausting for him and his wife, Sara. But things looked up when doctors changed their minds about doing “one more test.”

“I'm quite comfortable now, and I feel as grateful to God as I can be,” he said. “We put all of our faith in Him and our prayers were answered. I guess the worst part of it for me was my faith being put on trial, when everything keeps coming up negative and your faith is retried because of another test. Not only are you concerned, but here Mike is frustrated. And as a parent, when your child goes through aches and pains, you go through it, too.”

Al Williams said his son's assurance that he was fine eased the worries. Mike said the feeling was mutual.

“Even through the testing, I never worried,” said Mike Williams. “I just prayed to God. My mother said, 'You can't worry about that. God will take care of you.'

“They stood by me the whole time, even when I was feeling kind of bad because I wanted to play. They helped me through it.”

williams_collapse_1994-01.txt · Last modified: 2020/10/15 22:33 by mikeuma