Senior guard ends career due to heart ailment

Updated: January 17, 2006, 1:56 AM ET
Associated Press

SEATTLE -- Senior guard Kayla Burt said Monday she's ending her University of Washington basketball career after her internal heart defibrillator went off during a recent home game.

Kayla Burt
Burt

Burt, 23, had the defibrillator implanted in her chest after her heart stopped at her apartment near the UW campus on New Year's Eve 2002. Teammates came to her rescue then by performing CPR until paramedics arrived and took her to the hospital.

"The decision is a mutual agreement between myself, my family, the doctors and the University of Washington," Burt, of Arlington, told a news conference. She was joined by coach June Daugherty and Dr. Kim Harmon, the Huskies team doctor.

Harmon said Burt's decision was the right one.

"We still don't know why it happened," she said when asked why the defibrillator went off Thursday night during a time-out in a Pac-10 home game against UCLA. Both Burt and Harmon said the device went off a second time a few moments later, as Burt was waiting for an ambulance to take her to the University of Washington Medical Center.

Burt said she didn't want to take any more risks.

She was held for observation and tests at the hospital and released on Friday evening.

After her cardiac arrest, she missed the remainder of the 2002-2003 season and redshirted in 2003-2004. Doctors and Burt then decided it was safe for her to play basketball again.

The defibrillator was implanted to shock her heart back to normal rhythm should another abnormality occur.

"Coming into my return, I knew that anything (that) happened during the course of my career that involved my heart, I would put my shoes to rest," Burt said Monday. "We did not expect what happened on Thursday night to happen, but it did and it is no longer safe for me to play competitive Division I basketball."

Speaking publicly for the first time since the incident, Burt said she initially thought she had been hit in the chest, but then realized her defibrillator had gone off.

"Many thought that the device may have malfunctioned, but it indeed fired appropriately," she said.

After it fired the first time, Burt said she "panicked a little" and her heart was beating at "an extremely high rate." That's when the defibrillator went off a second time, she said.

Burt said she didn't second-guess her decision to return to the court. She played 15 games, all as a reserve, this season and averaged 6.9 points. She played 29 games as a junior, including 16 starts, averaging 9.6 points. She had a career-high 23 points, including six 3-pointers, at Arizona last Feb. 26.

"I want to make it very clear that I have no regrets about what happened or even my initial decision to return for the first time," she said. "I'm doing very well today and I'm still at peace with the way things have gone for the past year and a half."

Burt's teammates filled the room where the news conference took place.

Washington (12-4, 5-2) has 11 regular season games left, including one at Oregon State Thursday night, before the Pac-10 tournament in March.

Daugherty praised Burt for her play and her character.

"We have a very talented group of players and now they have a great reason to step up with Kayla gone," Daugherty said. "What better reason to step up than Kayla Burt?"


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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