Mar 01

Golf and the Heart

Golf Should Be Good For You…But

A lot of us met one very fortunate golfer last week at the Honda Classic. He was playing very well, put in a good round, made the cut and promptly celebrated by having a heart attack. The first report I read was that the attack was not of the mega-serious variety, but that report was wrong. Jason Bohn had a life-threatening heart attack, and the available personnel at the tournament did good work for him. He tried the type of line that many of us try – the “I’ll just go home and rest for a while, take a shower, take a nap – I’ll be fine.”  That’s one of my favorites, due to an obsessive fear of entering the medical system, and never getting out, as if it is a black hole sucking in stars that are never seen again. Many think that way, but they probably shouldn’t. As for Jason Bohn, the most fortunate golfer at the Honda Classic, he calls it “one hell of a mulligan.”
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jason bohnHis type of heart attack turned out to be what is often referred to as a “widow-maker.” The way I read it, there are three main arteries running along the surface of the heart. To the right is the right coronary, and to the left is the left anterior, descending – then the left circumflex. Did I get that right, docs? Apparently, when the artery down the front of the heart goes…you go. Bohn’s main artery was, according to those who treated him, 100% blocked.

The Harvard Medical School assures that the game of golf SHOULD be good for us, and CAN be good for us. For the Harvardians, it’s not the swinging, but the walking. A normal round of 18 holes takes you somewhere around 4 miles. Do it two or three times per week, and you’re doing yourself a lot of good. Pull a cart, and you’ll burn more calories – that’s good, too. Carry your clubs, and it’s even better.

I don’t know about that one, actually. I’ve almost always carried them, but in the early years, strap technology wasn’t all that great, and I felt skeletally misaligned after the round. Played in all kinds of temperatures as well, and at 100 degrees Fahrenheit, Harvard doesn’t need to tell me what was happening on the second nine. I like to joke about the match I lost by one after being up by 8 with 9 to play. What really happened is that I got through the front 9 fresh, but was doing the uneven heartbeat, dizziness, and seeing double thing by the 10th tee. Being just a kid, heart disease hadn’t gotten the chance to advance much, but if that kind of thing happened now – I’d need a mulligan, too.
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On that score, Harvard also reminds those of us who are growing older that the days of prancing up to the first tee without stretching are over. If they’re not, we’re cruisin’ for a bruisin’. Every part of the body is used, and injuries can find any part of the neck, shoulders, back, legs, knees, ankles, feet – anywhere. Those of us who live too much by the “What I can’t see won’t harm me,” and “But I feel fine” philosophies might want to study a little harder.

What we do off of the course, though, can severely limit what those wonderful medical folks at the course can do. We can make Harvard’s job very difficult by being sedentary most of the time, then jumping up to play a round. The western diet, yummy as it is, can gum up the works, and while a game of golf may not be the culprit, it can certainly pull the trigger and reveal what kind of abuse you’ve been heaping on yourself.

Heartfelt congratulations and welcome back to Jason Bohn, not to mention the lessons he can teach us. Let’s give golf the chance to improve our cardiovascular health, our sleep patterns, and our general mental health. Take a little care off of the course, and the nature walk we call golf SHOULD and CAN be good for us.

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