Minnesota Vikings' linebacker Cameron Smith recently tested positive for the coronavirus, but the routine tests that followed likely saved his life.
Smith, 23, announced in an Instagram post on Saturday that he will be skipping the NFL 2020 season after doctors discovered a congenital heart condition that will require open heart surgery.
"Earlier this week I found out I need open heart surgery to fix a bicuspid aortic valve that I was born with," Smith said. "Although this will unfortunately end my 2020 season, it is really a blessing that we found this as my heart is severely enlarged and wouldn’t have lasted much longer."
Smith's condition is one of the most common congenital heart defects, according to the National Institutes of Health. A bicuspid aortic valve has two small parts, called leaflets, instead of the normal three. The leaflets can also be stiffer than normal, which can ultimately lead to the valve not opening easily when the heart squeezes, causing the left side of the heart to work harder and damaging the muscle.
Most people don't discover they have the condition until they are middle aged and display symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain and feeling faint, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. Those are of course symptoms of other medical conditions, including the coronavirus.
Smith said he feels grateful he had additional tests completed after he tested positive for COVID-19.
"The Lord works in mysterious ways, but I could really feel him on this one!" he said.
While the surgery will sideline Smith for the 2020 season, he said doctors have assured him that he will be able to play football again as soon as he feels healed and receives medical clearance.
"By no means am I ready to be done playing football, there is still so much more I want to accomplish on the field," Smith wrote. "Im going to attack this like everything else I have in life. Already looking forward to the comeback!"