• By Dana Sparks

Sharing Mayo Clinic: Rare Heart Condition Turns Young Athlete into Advocate

February 5, 2017

Growing up, Joe Meyer loved sports. In elementary school, he played basketball and baseball. The summer before he entered eighth grade, the Jacksonville, Florida, youth decided to give football a try.

Before he took to the gridiron, Joe visited his pediatrician for sports physical. At that appointment, his doctor noticed a heart murmur. Joe, then 14, couldn’t be cleared to play until he went to a cardiologist.

In August 2011, after seeing a pediatric cardiologist and having an echocardiogram and stress test, Joe was diagnosed with obstructive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, or HCM — an incurable disease, usually caused by gene mutations, in which the heart muscle becomes abnormally thick.

The diagnosis took Joe away from sports and other physical activity for several years. But under the care of his medical team at Mayo Clinic, Joe is now active again, and he’s working to raise awareness of heart disease, particularly in children and teens.

“If I look back on the entire situation, I wouldn’t change anything,” Joe says. “It’s helped me find my passion and given me a voice to help others.”

Sidelined by heart problems

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy affects about 1 in 500 people — about 0.2 percent of the population. It tends to affect men and women equally. The symptoms may include shortness of breath, chest pain, palpitations, fatigue and passing out. A serious condition, the condition is a common cause of sudden cardiac arrest, especially young athletes. Read the rest of Joe's story.

This article originally appeared on the Sharing Mayo Clinic blog.