Olympic judo wrestler Maricet Espinosa Gonzalez, 34, has died after cardiac arrest following bizarre complications stemming from breast enhancement surgery undertaken earlier this month.
The Daily Caller reports that Gonzalez, who competed in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, suffered complications and a heart attack after surgery on January 21st. Later that day, Cuban Sports University, where Gonzalez was pursuing her undergraduate degree, announced her passing, saying students and faculty were “in mourning” and “great pain” after learning the news.
“On behalf of our teachers, workers, and students we extend our deepest condolences to their families, friends, and colleagues,” the university said in a statement.
A native of Arroyo Naranjo, Cuba, Gonzalez earned the nickname “La Mole” for her ability to squirm out of tricky situations on the mat. She posted back-to-back championship wins at the 2013 and 2014 Pan American Games before competing in Rio. She retired in 2017, completing a decade of competition in the 63kg category (139 pounds) as part of Cuba’s national judo team.
Sudden cardiac arrest is the leading cause of death among young athletes, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH). An attack occurs when an electrical malfunction causes the heart to beat irregularly — known as an arrhythmia — leading to stoppage and loss of blood flow. Medical experts often cite hereditary and underlying conditions as the source of the tragic occurrences, as was the case with the Bronny James, the son of NBA superstar Lebron James, when he collapsed on the court during a basketball game.
Joel Temple, MD, the director of cardiac electrophysiology at Nemours Children’s Health, told CBS News that CPR and immediate medical attention can dramatically improve young athletes’ chances of survival.
“The importance of CPR — the likelihood of surviving arrest is about 6%. Very very low,” Dr. Temple said. “Effective CPR provided — immediately that goes up to 44%. If an AED is used, it goes up to 66%.”
Screening young athletes for hereditary markers also goes a long way toward helping them adjust and prepare for high-stakes competition.
“They are really simple questions that focus primarily on symptoms the patient may have had that could be warning signs, like fainting palpitations or chest pain. Also, focus on family history — that could be somewhat helpful,” Dr. Temple said.