AUSTIN (KXAN) – The A stitched to the jersey of Derek Meech signifies his role as one of the Texas Stars alternate captains. Considering it’s location on the left of his chest, it could also stand for “atypical.”
The veteran defenseman plays with a heart condition found in less than one percent of the US population. “I get a bit of an elevated heart rate at a random situation,” Meech said. “It just comes out of nowhere. My heart will speed up and I will feel a little bit short of breath.”
Doctors have assured Meech it is safe for him to play and believe he has Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, a condition in which the body has an extra electrical pathway to the heart. The 31-year old has learned to manage his breathing once his heart starts to race. It has happened on and off for his entire professional career, although there has not been an occurrence this season, including in Dallas Stars training camp when the training staff equipped Meech with a a heart monitor.
“It’s not something that I think about every day. It’s something that’s behind me now and if it happens again, it happens again,” he said.
Other professional athletes play with WPW syndrome. The most high-profile is former University of Texas basketball player LaMarcus Aldridge. Aldridge was diagnosed in 2007 during his rookie season and underwent a procedure in 2007 and again in 2011.
The Stars return to the ice April 29 against the Rockford Ice Hogs in game three of their best-of-five playoff series. Rockford leads the series 2-0.