Stefan Struve Opens Up About Possibly Career-Ending Heart Condition
UFC heavyweight fighter, Stefan Struve, was recently diagnosed with an aortic valve leak and an enlarged heart. Though he was born with the condition, it has given him little trouble to date, especially considering his 25 wins in professional MMA. For now, however, Struve must consider his options.
By Christopher Murphy @MurphMMA
Stefan Struve spoke Monday on ‘The MMA Hour’ about his recent diagnosis of a heart condition. The UFC heavyweight suffers from an aortic valve leak and an enlarged heart- conditions that, given Struve’s profession, could lead to heart failure if they are not treated.
Struve, a 25 year old fighter from Holland, has managed to notch 31 professional fights despite being born with this condition. In fact, it wasn’t until a routine check-up that Struve learned about his heart condition.
“A couple of weeks ago, almost a month ago now, they did an ECHO of my heart as a routine test. I was standing with a lady who was doing the test. She was nice and friendly. In the test, you can see your heart beating and your blood flowing. All of a sudden, she got a little quiet.”
It was then that Struve learned of the tear in his heart’s aorta. But that wasn’t the end of his diagnosis. He was rushed to get an MRI, as the severity of the tear could put him in open-heart surgery that night.
After a few nights’ stay in the hospital and a number of tests, Struve better understands his condition. He did not have heart surgery, but that will be a necessity down the road. He is on a regimen of medication to lower the blood pressure and reduce the leak.
“My heart was working at 70 percent,” he explained. “With medication, they’re trying to lower the blood pressure and get the leakage to become less than it has been, trying to get it back to 90 percent.”
He is due back for his next check-up October 2, when doctors will measure how the medication helped. While surgery is necessary down the road, Struve wants to keep other options open.
“There are a couple of options. There is one option that will probably allow me to keep fighting. A fighter in Glory, Mark Miller had the same procedure and he came back from it.
“We’ll see what the medication does for my heart and the doctors will give their final view, and I’ll get the final answer on my career. The thing is [doctors in Holland] are not used to working with athletes. After they give their answer, we’re definitely going to the United States for a second opinion to see what is best so I can resume my career and live a healthy life.”
The second opinion will certainly be sought in order to avoid surgery. The procedure would replace the damaged valve with a mechanical one, forcing Struve to take blood-thinners for the rest of his life. Such a regimen of medication would inevitably force him from competing in professional MMA, as the risk of bleeding is too great.
A number of people have shown their support to Struve. The UFC is putting him in contact with some of the best cardiologists and covering the costs. Various athletes who have shared similar experiences and surgeries expressed their support and told Struve of their successful returns to competition.
For Struve, however, he has still not ruled out continuing to fight.
“The first day they said, ‘We’ll have to check this out, but your career is pretty much over.’ But I don’t believe this thing that I’ve had my entire life will end my career. There are still a couple of question marks.”
Of course, whether or not his days of fighting professionally come to an end or not, Struve is thankful that he has his health.
“The thing is, I may have to end my career, but they found it in time.”