Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

17 Jan 2010

Gaines Adams Passes Away

Bears defensive end Gaines Adams has reportedly died, according to the Greenville News. No word yet on the cause of death, but Adams,26 had been taken to the emergency room of a Greenwood, South Carolina hospital.

Our thoughts go out to Adams's friends and family.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 17 Jan 2010

32 comments, Last at 20 Jan 2010, 2:14pm by Giovanni Carmazzi


by alexdl :: Sun, 01/17/2010 - 1:17pm

Does anyone know how or why he passed?

by C (not verified) :: Sun, 01/17/2010 - 1:28pm

I wonder what happened to such a seemingly healthy young man in peak physical shape? Could it have been a heart condition or such? I'm sorry he's gone.

by Key19 :: Sun, 01/17/2010 - 5:37pm

Wow, nice call.

Very sad news. NFL Players really have been displaying short lifespans in recent years...

by C (not verified) :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 5:35pm

Not directed at the FO, but the media...

Why was the Chris Henry story played out for weeks and the Gaines Adams story seems to be getting so little attention. For all intensive purposes Gaines Adams was a good guy, never got in trouble, and suffered from something that was outside his control.

I'm not going to bash the late Chris Henry but his situation was far from the same, and he was all over the news for 1-2 weeks.

If Gaines Adams was a trouble maker would his death get more coverage? I wish the pop media went into more depth about Gaines Adams, I was pulling for the guy to live up to his abilities and it's sad he didn't get the chance to.

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 7:48pm

Intents and purposes. Not "intensive" purposes.

by C (not verified) :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 8:33pm

Thanks. My bad.

by Dan :: Sun, 01/17/2010 - 1:30pm

Profootballtalk is saying that it's "believed to be a heart attack," but that hasn't been confirmed yet.

by Dan :: Sun, 01/17/2010 - 2:13pm

Now Adam Schefter tweets "Coroner ruled that Bears DE Gaines Adams died of cardiac arrest caused by an enlarged heart."

by MilkmanDanimal :: Sun, 01/17/2010 - 1:42pm

Wow. He was poked and prodded at the combine, plus he had to go through a physical recently for the trade to the Bears. If there was some kind of heart defect, I would have thought it'd have shown up during the exams.

I'm suddenly regretting a lot of the very unkind things I said about the guy over the years . . .

by C (not verified) :: Sun, 01/17/2010 - 1:45pm

Something sudden like that for a healthy young guy seems likely to be a heart attack. Sort of like the NBA players Reggie Lewis and a few others.. If he did have "athletes heart syndrome", I wonder if the Bears doctors cleared him for the trade...

I wonder if he was training though... the season just ended and players typically take some time off after the season ends.

I was rooting for Gaines Adams, I wanted him to do well for the Bears, he seemed like a decent guy.

by Sander :: Sun, 01/17/2010 - 2:06pm

It could be a congenital heart defect, too. Those are often hard to pick up in medical scans, and I know of several cases of European soccer players dying and almost dying of these, both on and off the field, and they would have gone through extensive medical checks too.

RIP Gaines Adams

by Danish Denver-Fan :: Sun, 01/17/2010 - 2:19pm

The mortality rate seems high among football players, considering we're looking at 20 to 40 year olds, in great physical condition - many living in unbelievable wealth... Is something going on here?

by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Sun, 01/17/2010 - 2:41pm

I had a professor as an undergrad who was an expert on heart problems (he apparently was planning to be a cardiologist and quit medical school during his last year and got a Ph.D. instead but did not give up his interest in heart-related medical conditions) and he talked about that he thought we were going to start seeing enlargement of the heart become a major problem in professional sports.

With the lack of an off-season for the players, more weight training, generally harder practice work, *cough* steroids and other PEDs *cough*, and modern medicine allowing players to get back on the field (whether practice or game) and avoid rest more easily, they can train themselves to death in a way that only a few types of athletes (I'm thinking he said triathletes were the most susceptible, but I'm not sure on that) ever would previously. I don't know that we're seeing that happen, but I wouldn't be surprised if it is. Obviously, that's only a small part of the picture, but it's probably an important one.

by Sander :: Sun, 01/17/2010 - 3:11pm

Sample size.
There are 1696 active players in the NFL at any time (32 teams, 53 players per team). If you take a random sampling of 1696 people in the US population with the same age-distribution, I'd be highly surprised if you don't find at least the same amount of deaths (and probably a higher amount, given that these are all really fit, terribly rich kids who get looked over by a doctor very frequently).

by dsouten :: Sun, 01/17/2010 - 4:28pm

I think you're on the right track. And this is a sample of young males, who I figure are MORE likely to die of crime or accidents than the general public, thus driving up the general mortality rate.

The rest are fluky health conditions like this one, which I would wager occur only as frequently as you would expect out of the sample group.

This is the same reason I get annoyed when athletes are portrayed as being especially prone to criminality - if you track any sample of 2,000 young males, it would be a fairly regular occurance for one to get arrested for drugs, DUI, etc.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 01/18/2010 - 9:44am

"his is the same reason I get annoyed when athletes are portrayed as being especially prone to criminality - if you track any sample of 2,000 young males, it would be a fairly regular occurance for one to get arrested for drugs, DUI, etc."

Not if you track them against their peers: young males who are economically in the top 1% you wouldn't.

by dsouten :: Mon, 01/18/2010 - 1:12pm

I'm not looking at data here, just reasoning, but...

Your point might well hold for young males born in the top 1%. But I would assume that people who live most of their life in the bottom 99%, and then very suddenly find themselves in that top 1%, do not suddenly get all the advantages of a sheltered upbringing.

And besides, the rich kids I knew growing up were into more drugs than anybody.

by Joe T. :: Sun, 01/17/2010 - 8:31pm

NFL players are not a cross-section of the population at large. They are bigger and carry both more muscle and fat weight on their frame per inch of height than the average person, and put far more stress on their bodies in a short period of time than most people receive in a lifetime.

by Sander :: Sun, 01/17/2010 - 9:31pm

I'm not saying they are a cross-section. I'm just saying that I don't think they're more likely to die than other populations.

The extra stress is probably compensated and then some by the fitness(not even 3-4 nose tackles are morbidly obese), richdom(they're not facing problems poorer people face) and being looked over every week by doctors.

The point I was trying to make is that if you do take a cross-section of US people with the same age-distribution, they're not going to die less frequently than NFL players. We just instinctively think a lot of NFL players die because every death gets publicized and we don't have a real good sense of the size of the player pool.

by Jay Z (not verified) :: Sun, 01/17/2010 - 11:14pm

You're wrong.

Look, it took me 30 seconds to google NFL Players Mortality. The CDC did a study, one among many. In their study the normal NFL players were doing okay, but linemen (which Gaines Adams was) definitely show an incidence of heart disease. So unfortunately, his death seems to confirm some sort of a trend.

While anecdotal information can often be inaccurate, sometimes it isn't. That's why we have studies to confirm or deny, to the extent that anything can be proven or disproven.

Of course the NFL is a young population; most people who ever played in the NFL are still alive. So it will take awhile to get a more complete mortality picture. Meanwhile, the game is never exactly the same from decade to decade. But it's not impossible to have risk areas in a population whatsoever.

by Sander :: Mon, 01/18/2010 - 1:17pm

You have a point. The CDC study also found that overall player mortality was decreased by 46%. What this means is that overall any football player is less likely to die than anyone else of their age, but this effect is smaller for linemen (I'll assume that the 52% increased risk of heart disease still puts linemen under the normal mortality rate, given that heart disease in that age group is a minor cause of death). It does point to heart disease amongst linemen as something to take a look at, though.

That makes me wonder if the use of HGH and other PEDs (which I'd think would be more prevalent amongst linemen, who are supposed to be as bulky as possible, might be a stupid assumption) could be a determining factor, or whether it's just the weight on their bodyframe.

by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 7:35pm

Not a huge surprise about the linemen; overweight is a major cause of heart stress, and contrary to popular opinion, it is not actually the case that only fat affects this; having more body mass means the heart has to work harder 24/7, full stop. Exercise, and potentially diet, obviously helps (so a 400 lb. lineman is healthier than a 400 lb. couch potato) but it doesn't change the simple fact that more feet of blood vessels to pump through and more mass to pump to means more 24/7 stress on the heart muscle.

Comparing linemen to the average population over 300 lbs. would be interesting.

by DrewTS (not verified) :: Mon, 01/18/2010 - 9:38am

I can see the overall point, but "being looked over every week by doctors" doesn't mean they get a comprehensive physical every week. It means that someone is assessing their ability to take more physical punishment next week. And in most cases, the doctors are only looking at problems that the patients are complaining about. So if it's not causing pain, it's not getting addressed.

by Theo :: Sun, 01/17/2010 - 3:25pm

"of cardiac arrest due to an enlarged heart, coroner says."


by Jekyll (not verified) :: Sun, 01/17/2010 - 3:43pm

Telling us that he had "an enlarged heart" doesn't really give us any clues as to why he died, 26 year olds in peak physical conditions do not have cardiomegaly unless there is some serious (and in this case presumably undiagnosed) pathology going on. I wonder if they're talking about hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which is a common cause of sudden cardiac death in young healthy males, but then you'd expect them to come out and name it. And I doubt they'd refer to it as a heart attack.

The most common cause of heart attacks in 26 year olds is cocaine use, but I'm not trying to cast aspersions, as I know nothing of his character or habits.

In any case, it's a tragedy and my thoughts go out to his family.

by Jimmy :: Sun, 01/17/2010 - 5:36pm

Tragic. It doesn't seem to make any sense but I guess things like this aren't meant to.

by Parmenides :: Sun, 01/17/2010 - 9:45pm

I had a friend drop dead when he was 21. Heart something. The autopsy never figured out what the reason was. He wasn't in what I could call peak physical condition. At the same time I wouldn't say that he was in bad condition. It happens.

by Dr. Mooch :: Mon, 01/18/2010 - 8:04am

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is genetic, and probably occurs in about 0.1% of the general population. You'd expect, among some 2,000 NFL players, to have at least one or two with enlarged hearts at risk for sudden cardiac death.

by woobly doobly (not verified) :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 3:07am

Is it inappropriate to remark that football players are little more than toys to us on tv and that all this respect and consideration is unreal at best? Why so much reverie for a person that no one knew? I saw a comment deleted for implying that he took steroids. Obviously, football players experience higher mortality rates than other people. If we were being real, we would either call for the destruction of the NFL or we wouldn't be so damn heart broken over what is a foreseeable consiquence of this professional sport?

by The Rock (not verified) :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 8:23am

It's weird how an enlarged heart can be so deadly, and yet it worked out so darn well for the grinch. It even dramatically increased his strength -if I remember correctly.

by Giovanni Carmazzi (not verified) :: Tue, 01/19/2010 - 12:38pm

I would like to know why my comment was deleted

by Giovanni Carmazzi (not verified) :: Wed, 01/20/2010 - 2:14pm

I guess I'm not going to get an explanation so I will repost: "Death by Steroids"