Star Lotulelei’s Heart Condition: How Far Will He Fall?


October 4, 2012; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Utes defensive tackle Star Lotulelei (92) celebrates a fumble recovery during the first quarter against the Southern California Trojans at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

The combine can be a killer for many players.  For Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, it became just that after an echocardiogram showed that his left ventricle is only pumping at 44% efficiency.  Lotulelei has opted to not work out and will no doubt be looking for a good doctor shortly.

Widely considered the top defensive tackle in the draft, if not the top defensive lineman, Lotulelei’s draft stock could really only fall.  If he did will at the combine, it would simply be expected of him; if he did poorly, sliding a few spots wouldn’t be shocking.

Having been a proponent of drafting Lotulelei at some points since draft season began, I don’t know that I would still pass up on the prospect. has Lotulelei being taken at number three overall to the Oakland Raiders.  Will he still be a top three prospect?  I think he will be.

This issue is likely, and hopefully, not a career killer.  His left ventricle pumping at 44% is 11 points lower than the low end of average (55-70%) and may be brought up with drugs and stricter dietary regimen.  Of course, as I’m not a doctor, we will have to wait and see how his doctor – scheduled for a visit after Indianpolis – responds to it.  For olympic athletes, a max pumping of about 45 liters/minute can be expected.  For a defensive tackle in the NFL, I would guess that number is lower based on sheer size.  According to the Cleveland Clinic, if the left ventricle is pumping below 40%, it can confirm a diagnosis of heart failure.  While 40-55% is considered “below average,”  Lotulelei’s 44% is just four points higher than a confirmation of heart failure.

I hope Lotulelei will be alright and his abilities don’t diminish too much as a result.  This reveal has certainly soiled his combine experience, but it is better to catch it now than later.  NFL players already have a relatively low life expectancy of just 58 years, so it is wise for Lotulelei to get it checked out.  Remaining healthy is too valuable to a young person like Lotulelei to sacrifice it all if it’s too much for him to play again.

While the issue could be serious, we don’t really know right now and I don’t predict too big of a slide down draft boards until we know more.  Based purely on talent – especially if he has been playing with this for a while – I expect teams to still be interested and him to still be a top-5 prospect.  I can’t see him sliding out of the top-10, but stranger things have happened.  If this problem can’t be addressed (more information is needed) then some teams may shy away.

Here at B&T, we all hope that he’s alright.

– Luke N. Sims

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