High School Basketball: McDonald's All American Boy's Game

On the morning of July 24, USC freshman guard Bronny James, LeBron James' eldest son and one of the most well-known college athletes in the world, suffered sudden cardiac arrest during a practice on the Trojans campus and was transported to Cedars-Sinai Hospital. James was taken under care in the hospital's intensive care unit where he was stabilized, and he was subsequently discharged days later.

The frightening episode marks the second cardiac event in as many years for a USC freshman after former five-star Vincent Iwuchukwu also suffered cardiac arrest in preseason training with the Trojans. And while there has not been a link between the two events, Iwuchukwu's prolonged absence -- he missed the entire first semester before being cleared in January -- puts into question Bronny's availability for the upcoming season.

With so many questions still unanswered surrounding Bronny, his availability and what happened late last month and what may happen with him moving forward, we've pieced together relevant information we know and similar situations that could foreshadow Bronny's potential path ahead.

What happened to Bronny after the workout?

James collapsed on the court during a practice with USC on July 24 and was initially treated at the team's facility. The Los Angeles Fire Department received a call for medical aid just before 9:30 a.m. shortly after the incident and he was taken to Cedars-Sinai.

"Listen to me, OK, get an ambulance here – now," an unidentified caller could be heard telling a dispatcher on the since-released 911 call

The caller indicated that neither a doctor nor a nurse was on site at the time he collapsed, though Cedars-Sinai in a subsequent statement said James was treated by USC medical staff on site. 

What are the chances he'll play for USC this season?

It's still too early to tell if or when James could be back on the court for USC. Iwuchukwu returned to play 14 games as a freshman for the Trojans after missing the first few months of the season, this coming after he was told it was unlikely he would play again. But that was after he underwent a procedure to have a medical device implanted that could monitor his heart rate. Ultimately, each case of cardiac arrest is different and a return to action may be dependent upon the cause of the episode.

James was expected to be a key piece for USC this season as one of the high-profile prospect additions of its No. 3-ranked incoming recruiting class. He's a potential one-and-done talent with lottery potential who has consistently proven on the grassroots circuit that he can be a high-level role player and immediately impactful college player. 

How will his cardiac issue affect his NBA Draft stock?

At the very least, the cardiac arrest affects James' immediate projection to the NBA. He was a late lottery pick in my first mock draft of the 2024 cycle, but it's impossible to feel confident projecting him there now with so much uncertainty surrounding his health. The answer to how high he could be drafted – or whether he will be drafted at all – again likely comes down to the root cause of his heart attack and his prognosis moving forward. If doctors clear him to return and he plays this season with no issues, it may not play a factor in how NBA teams view him long-term.

How common is cardiac arrest for college athletes?

According to a study published at the Mayo Clinic Health System earlier this year, sudden cardiac arrest is the leading cause of death in young athletes. The incidence of sudden cardiac arrest in the general population is 1 in every 1,000 people annually, while the incidence for young athletes is reported to be much more rare – roughly 1 or 2 for every 100,000. Men's basketball players are at the highest risk of suffering sudden cardiac arrest among all demographics.

The University of Texas Health System cites that the leading cause of sudden cardiac arrest in the United States is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which is a disease of the heart muscle. The second-leading cause is congenital coronary artery anomaly.

What other athletes have recently had heart issues? 

In late 2020, Florida wing Keyontae Johnson suffered what was then the most well-known case of a cardiac event at the college level in recent memory. Johnson, then a projected first round pick, collapsed on the court during a game vs. Florida State. He was later diagnosed with sudden cardiac arrest. Johnson did not play the remainder of the season and missed all of the 2021-22 season before returning to the court for Kansas State in 2022-23.

Former Baylor star Jared Butler was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, the leading cause of sudden cardiac arrest in the U.S., when he was 18 years old and preparing to start his college career. Butler went on to be an All-American, though his condition was flagged during the NBA Draft process, causing him to slip to the No. 40 pick in 2021. Butler, unlike Bronny or Johnson, did not have a public episode; his condition was caught in a routine exam and he is one of many who have HCM but are largely asymptomatic. 

Bills safety Damar Hamlin had a public heart episode last football season when he collapsed on the field during a game vs. the Cincinnati Bengals after colliding with star wide receiver Tee Higgins. Hamlin later revealed he sustained commotio cordis, a blunt chest injury that in many case disrupts the rhythm of the heart and can lead to sudden death. 

All three cases are different, but Johnson and Butler are both in the NBA and Hamlin is the betting favorite to win the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year in 2023. 

How are schools equipped to deal with cardiac episodes?

An automated external defibrillator -- also known as an AED -- is a device that most colleges are equipped with to handle sudden cardiac episodes. An AED helped revive the aforementioned Iwuchukwu last year at USC. The device can help restart a person's heart and put it back in rhythm during a cardiac episode.

What are next steps for Bronny?

Earlier this month, LeBron James shared a video of Bronny playing the piano while surrounded by his family, an encouraging sign after he was discharged from the hospital earlier in the week.

"GRAND RISING," said LeBron in a caption on Instagram. "God is Great! … We're here right with you every step of the way!"