Josh Ruggles finds his role at Loras College after dealing with heart complications

 

Josh Ruggles finds his role at Loras College after dealing with heart complications

first_imgAs a college basketball player, Josh Ruggles is a better basketball player than the average person. Because of a medical condition, which required three heart surgeries, he plays with a much slower heart rate than the average person, too.The guard at Division III Loras College was diagnosed with supraventricular tachycardia, or SVT, when he was five years old. SVT causes an abnormally fast heartbeat rhythm due to faulty electrical activity in the heart.Once diagnosed, Ruggles underwent the usual surgery for SVT, which if done correctly, leaves no long-term issues. But Ruggles needed three to fix his SVT. By the third surgery, Ruggles’ heart had swollen to the point that he now has permanent, second-degree heart blockage.“Not that you want to hear this about your kid, but this one will be in the textbooks,” Holly Ruggles, Josh’s mother, said. “It was just a very unusual case.”Second-degree heart blockage slows electrical signals between the atria and ventricles “to a large degree,” according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. If electrical signals are stopped from reaching the ventricles, the ventricles won’t contract. Blood is then unable to be pumped to the rest of the body, especially the lungs.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textAs a result of his second-degree heart blockage, Ruggles has a resting heart rate at or near 30 beats per minute. According to the American Heart Association, even the best-trained athletes don’t have resting heart rates below 40 beats per minute.Because Ruggles is well-trained and in shape, the blockage doesn’t affect him too much on the court. But his SVT ended up leading him to Loras.After high school, Ruggles played basketball at Grace College, an NAIA Division I school. He eventually transferred to Loras, where he now plays a key role and averages 9.6 points per game.Chris Martin is Ruggles’ head coach at Loras. Martin was diagnosed with SVT in high school, but Martin faces no ill effects from it because his surgery was successful. The shared past didn’t hurt Martin when he decided to recruit a transferring Ruggles, though.Ruggles already knew Martin, through Martin’s wife, Haley, who taught at Ruggles’ high school. He didn’t know that he and his soon-to-be head coach shared a part of his past.“Kinda funny, he used the heart problem as a recruiting tool,” Ruggles said, laughing. “And it worked.”Courtesy of Loras College AthleticsHolly Ruggles, Josh’s mother, didn’t know Martin before. When Martin started recruiting Josh, Holly called him and told him about her son’s past heart issues, including SVT. Martin quickly interjected, telling Holly that he himself had dealt with SVT in his past. Holly felt more comfortable with Josh going to Loras knowing that. If he was having chest troubles, Holly trusted that Martin would have an ingrained understanding of how to handle it, better than other coaches would.Despite the fresh start at a new school, Ruggles couldn’t quite escape the lingering doubt when he arrived this past fall. In a pre-season workout, he felt chest pain. After about a week, when the pain hadn’t subsided, doctors took a look and diagnosed Ruggles with myocarditis. It starts with a nondescript virus, and ends with muscle and other cells in the heart becoming inflamed. A total fluke and unrelated to his other heart problems. Yet there they were.The condition increased swelling in Ruggles’ heart, increasing the risk of him encountering problems while playing.“I just have an increased risk of dropping on the court,” Ruggles said. “The risk is worth it in my opinion.”There really is no standard timetable for recovery from myocarditis. Ruggles was given a 3-6 month estimate in the fall when he was diagnosed, but there were no guarantees. At one of his check-ups, in mid-December, he was given the all clear. He would be able to play again, with no restrictions.A week of practices later, and Ruggles was making his Loras debut, hosting Carroll University on December 22. Even though it was winter break and the crowd was almost empty, according to Ruggles, it was a big moment in his journey. He didn’t know whether he would ever play again.“Best Christmas gift I’ve ever gotten,” Ruggles said, “that’s for sure.”The sophomore still has a long career ahead of him at Loras. Currently shooting 36..9 percent from 3, he’s made a solid early impression on Martin, who deemed him “one of the best shooters in the country.” For as long as Ruggles is able, he won’t let any heart condition keep him off the court.There is an automatic external defibrillator in the gym every time Loras plays. Martin insists that it’s not just for Ruggles, but for the well-being of the whole team.“Better to be safe than sorry,” Martin said.Through layers of adversity, SVT and second-degree heart blockage to myocarditis and the increased risk it posed, all Ruggles wanted to do was play basketball.“I really tried after I got cleared to just love every second,” Ruggles said. “To enjoy it, and have fun with it, and make sure other people were having fun with it. And it was really easy to, after that whole thing.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on March 2, 2017 at 5:14 pm Contact Billy: wmheyen@syr.edu | @Wheyen3last_img

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