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Marfan syndrome ends potential NBA player's career days before draft

Isaiah Austin, a college basketball player, was expected to play in the National Basketball Association. But four days before the NBA draft, the 20-year-old player was diagnosed with Marfan syndrome, a serious medical impairment that can cause heart and other problems. Austin was diagnosed after an EKG test given during standard testing at the NBA combine showed an abnormality. Additional genetic tests pointed to Marfan syndrome.

Marfan syndrome is a genetic disorder that affects the connective tissue in the body. It can affect the heart and blood vessels and can result in enlarged or bulging aortas, among other problems. It can also affect the bones and joints, eyes, lungs and other body systems, according to the National Marfan Foundation.

Through testing, Austin learned that the arteries in his heart are enlarged and that he could rupture his heart if he pushes too hard. Because of that risk, his basketball career ended just days before the NBA draft.

For others with Marfan syndrome, the limitations caused by the disease are not always career-ending, but they can be. Social Security considers someone with Marfan syndrome to meet its Listing of Impairments if the person has an aneurysm of the aorta or major branches due to any cause, including Marfan syndrome.

The Listing of Impairments is a list of medical conditions that Social Security considers so severe that an applicant who meets or equals a listing will be considered disabled. If an applicant's medical impairments do not fit under the list, they may be eligible for benefits if they can prove that their medical impairments prevent them from working any kind of a job.

Even if someone with Marfan syndrome does not have an aneurysm of the aorta, the effects of the disease can be debilitating. In a statement to the Social Security Administration, the National Marfan Foundation said that a combination of debilitating, chronic effects of the syndrome can lead to disability. For example, multiple cardiovascular surgeries may be required, which has lengthy recoveries and a risk of complications. Patients may not regain the energy they need to work.

 Difficulty breathing, musculoskeletal and joint deterioration and pain can contribute to fatigue. Other problems can make it difficult to sit or stand for long periods of time. For Marfan patients in these situations, disability benefits may be available.

  • Our law firm represents clients in initial applications and appeals for disability benefits in Minnesota. For more information, visit our page on cardiovascular conditions.
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