SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Utah State basketball player who nearly died after collapsing during practice Tuesday said he should be able to play again.
Danny Berger collapsed during practice in Logan and fell into cardiac arrest. The team’s trainer revived him using a defibrillator.
Doctors have inserted a tiny defibrillator in his chest in case his heart stops again. Because of that, his left arm must stay in a sling for three weeks. After that, doctors say he should be cleared to play again.
“If I everything goes right, it seems like I’ll have a full recovery,” the 22-year-old Berger said Friday during a press conference.
Tests show that playing basketball shouldn’t be a problem for Berger, whose heart has two to three extra beats, said Dr. Jared Brunch of the Intermountain Medical Center. When he does play again, doctors will be monitoring the heart remotely via the defibrillator.
Berger will be released from the hospital Saturday and plans to go to Utah State’s Saturday night game against Western Oregon.
Berger was upgraded Thursday to “fair” condition and moved out of the intensive care unit at a Salt Lake City area hospital. He has been in critical condition since being flown there by helicopter Tuesday.
This was the first time Berger has spoken to the media since the collapse.
Utah State basketball coach Stew Morrill also spoke for the first time Friday, saying his visits with Berger have been emotional.
“I’m an old bird. I don’t know if I’m a tough old bird, but I’m definitely an old bird and things like this are hard. The fact that he’s doing so much better has made it bearable. It’s emotional,” Morrill said.
Morrill discussed those visits as his team prepared to play Saturday against Western Oregon – the Aggies’ first game since Berger collapsed. Longtime Utah State assistant athletic trainer Mike Williams is credited with saving Berger’s life after he went into cardiac arrest.
Morrill said his own heart ached seeing Berger three straight days at a Salt Lake City-area hospital.
Morrill said he nearly lost it when Berger was regaining consciousness.
“He thanked me for coming,” Morrill recalled. “That one about got me. Yeah right, like it was a big deal for me to come. He’s just an awfully, awfully good kid.”
Danny Berger was born in Fort Collins, Colo., and went to high school in Medford, Ore. He played basketball at Chemeketa Community College in Oregon before coming to play for Utah State. The junior is a starter at forward and averages 7.6 points and 3.6 rebounds.
Berger’s family has been with him at the hospital since Tuesday. Evidence of his improvement was visible in a photo a friend tweeted Thursday showing Berger flashing a “thumbs up” sign while surrounded by family members.
Aggies students have organized a campaign to send Berger get-well cards and should be in full force to show their support for the team Saturday night, even if Berger remains hospitalized.
Morrill said getting back to practice has been “therapeutic” for the team and coaches after they witnessed the incident.
“The fact that Danny’s doing better has made it seem like it’s time to go back to the practice floor,” Morrill said.
He said it’s been 10 days since the team last played and that it will be interesting to see how players respond in a game considering all that has happened.
They returned to practice Thursday.
“The kids were a little rusty, but in good spirits and had about as good a workout as you could expect,” Morrill said.
Utah State, meanwhile, continues working with Brigham Young officials to find a suitable date to reschedule the rivalry game that was postponed Wednesday because of what happened to Berger.
“As I’ve said, they’ve been great in this situation,” Morrill said. “It’s just a dilemma right now with conference play around the corner and both of us having full schedules. Finals week is next week and that was looked at. We’re trying to look at all the options, but that’s the stage we’re in right now. We have not found a date that works yet.”