Bronny James went into cardiac arrest in July because of a congenital heart defect, according to a family spokeswoman.
Bronny James, the son of basketball star LeBron James, had a cardiac arrest during a basketball workout on July 24.
Stephanie Rosa of the LeBron James Family Foundation said in a statement on Friday that an inherited condition was the likely cause.
“It is an anatomically and functionally significant Congenital Heart Defect which can and will be treated,” the statement said. “We are very confident in Bronny’s full recovery and return to basketball in the very near future.”
James was first hospitalized at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, and released three days later.
The 6-foot-3 guard committed to play for the University of Southern California in May. At 18 years old, he was considered a top prospect out of high school this year.
Since that day, the James family has visited the Mayo Clinic and Atlantic Health-Morristown Medical Center in New Jersey — prominent hospitals for electrophysiology.
"EP for short is the electricians of the heart that deal with arrhythmias, whether it be too fast or too slow," said Dr. Bradley Knight, director of cardiac electrophysiology at Northwestern Medicine.
An American Heart Association video shows the difference between cardiac arrest and heart attack. With cardiac arrest, the heart stops beating because of an electrical problem, called an arrhythmia. With heart attacks, blood flow to the heart is blocked. It's a circulation problem.
The Mayo Clinic identifies more than a dozen congenital heart defects which can cause those heartbeat problems. They occur as the heart develops, at around 6 weeks of pregnancy.
The defects include: Holes in the heart, improper connections in the blood vessels, heart valve problems or a combination of defects.
Solutions depend on the defect and can include surgeries or implanted defibrillators, which send an electrical charge when there is an arrhythmia.
"There are actually some newer devices that may be appropriate for athletes that don't require a lead placed down in the heart, like a standard defibrillator. We can now place subcutaneous, completely extravascular defibrillators, [that] might be more suitable for athletes and young patients," said Dr. Jason Huang, a cardiac electrophysiologist at Swedish Medical Center.
The CDC says congenital heart defects occur in about 1% of babies.
When it comes to returning to activity for athletes like Bronny James, it's a decision doctors and the family make together, knowing any risks. Vincent Iwuchuwku, another USC basketball recruit, had a cardiac arrest during a workout last July. He returned to play six months after the incident.
Damar Hamlin, the Buffalo Bills safety who had a cardiac arrest in a game against the Cincinnati Bengals in January of 2023, posted a message of support for Bronny James when he was hospitalized.
"Prayers to Bronny & The James family as well. Here for you guys just like you have been for me my entire process," he tweeted.
Hamlin returned to play for the NFL in August of 2023.
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