CLEMSON - Dwon Clifton, who started 17 games for Larry Shyatt's Clemson basketball team as a freshman a year ago, Wednesday was diagnosed with a heart condition that likely will end his basketball career.
Clifton has been diagnosed with Long QT Syndrome, an electrical disorder which can be fatal if left untreated. The disease was discovered following a battery of tests at Redfern Health Center which were done after Clifton suffered a fainting spell toward the end of an individual workout last week.
He will be held out of all basketball-related activities for 30 days, during which time he will undergo more testing at Emory Hospital in Atlanta.
"We are only concerned with Dwon's longterm health at this time," said Shyatt. "We have talked with Dwon and his family and will do whatever is best for him. I spoke with him today and he is feeling fine and is in great physical condition. In our preseason conditioning tests he rated among the best on the team, if not the best in every category."
Clemson team doctor Byron Harder Wednesday said there is a "high probability" Clifton will not be able to play basketball again.
Dr. Daniel Snavely, a cardiologist at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, agreed with Harder's assessment.
"The QT interval is the time it takes the heart to relax" after strenuous activity, Snavely said. "It's an electrical disorder which has the potential to cause an abnormal heart rhythm."
Snavely said such an abnormality could lead to sudden cardiac death. The disease usually is hereditary, he said, though it can be caused by certain prescription drugs.
"He was probably born with it," Snavely said. "He'll likely need an automatic defibrillator to keep the heart from going into an abnormal rhythm. Based on (available information), I'd tell him his basketball career was done. It's just too risky."
Snavely also said Clifton's problem is significantly different from the type of disease which killed Loyola Marymount star Hank Gathers a decade ago, though the results can be just as deadly.
"Where (Clifton's) is an electrical disorder, Gathers had cardiomyopathy, which is a muscle disorder," said Snavely. "That, too, can cause an abnormal heart rhythm, which is what killed Gathers."
Clifton and classmate Tony Stockman were the only Tigers to play in every game
last year as freshmen. The 6-foot-5 native of High Point, N.C. averaged 3.9 points and 2.6 assists per game a year ago.
His top game was a 10-point, seven-rebound outing at North Carolina late in the year. He had a season high 12 rebounds against Washington in a tournament
in Puerto Rico.