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Health Team

Pro basketball player proves heart disease can affect anyone

Posted February 14, 2013 6:43 p.m. EST
Updated February 14, 2013 6:47 p.m. EST

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, and even healthy, fit people can be at risk.

Pro basketball player Chris Wilcox knows that first hand, so he and his wife are spending Valentine's Day raising awareness about heart health.

Wilcox started his basketball career at Raleigh's Enloe High School before moving on to a national championship team at the University of Maryland. Currently, he plays for the Boston Celtics.

In the NBA, doctors keep a close eye on players' health.

"Everyone has to get a physical, starting off with a stress test," Wilcox said.

Last March, a stress test led to a follow-up exam that revealed a problem at the base of the aortic valve in Wilcox's heart.

"When he came home, I'm like, 'You're only 29. What do you mean heart surgery?'" his wife, Tiffany Wilcox, said.

Wilcox didn't finish the season. He needed open heart surgery right away, and his future with the NBA seemed uncertain.

"I'm 30, getting ready to have surgery on my heart. It's like, you know, how is my recover going to be from here?" Wilcox said.

But he fought hard to recover and get his body back into shape so he could return to the court. Less than a year later, he's back with Celtics – with no symptoms and no pain.

"I'm still going through it, but at the end of the day, you know, it was the best thing that could have ever happened to me," he said.