By BOB CRAMER
Senior safety Joseph Sylvester has a simple goal for Mustang High’s 2019 football season. He wants to be healthy and finish the season on the field.
Of course, in a contact sport like football, that’s easier said than done.
“The last two seasons, I’ve been injured,” said Sylvester, a team captain for the 2019 Broncos. “My main goal is to be healthy and finish the season with my guys.”
Sylvester said he suffered a foot injury at the midway point of his sophomore season, then came a high irregular heartbeat last season in a home game against Edmond North.
“My heartbeat was 236 per minute. I had to have surgery the next week,” Sylvester said. “I honestly didn’t think I’d be able to play football anymore. It’s the scariest thing I’ve ever been through. I’d had something similar happen but it wasn’t that fast.”
This time, however, was more worrisome, Sylvester said. “It wasn’t coming down. It was climbing.”
Sylvester missed the rest of football season but eventually was cleared by a cardiologist to wrestle and won regionals at 152 pounds. But at the state meet, he twice lost tight matches to wrestlers he’d beaten previously.
“We’re going to take every precaution with Joseph,” head football coach Lee Blankenship said. “What’s cool about Joseph is the heart he plays with. It’s filled with courage and love for his teammates. And then there’s his heart.”
Mustang coaches and athletic trainers will be keeping a close eye on Sylvester this year in both sports.
“We’ve got one of the best training staffs in the country with Chris Kromer and his assistant, Britini Leep,” Blankenship said.
Sylvester wore a heart monitor for a few days in spring football. “It was nothing major, pretty common practice. The doctor just wanted to see heart activity for a few days,” Kromer said.
Kromer, 35, is entering his 10th year as Mustang’s head trainer and Leep is in her third year.
Kromer is a product of Southwestern Oklahoma State University’s athletic education training program and Leep received her master’s degree from Kansas State University.
Kromer explained what happened during Sylvester’s cardiac episode. It is called supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) – when a rapid heart rate occurs above 100 beats per minute. The average person’s resting heartbeat is between 80 to 100 beats per minute, he said.
“Joseph came to the sideline and said his heart was racing,” Kromer said, noting Sylvester complained of shortness of breath and tightness in his chest. “We were unable to get his heart rate down.
“The electrical system was unable to regulate the electric activity in his heart. It’s just something he was born with. Genetically, that’s how his heart is wired. It’s not caused by a blow to the chest and can come on without warning.”
Sylvester said his parents took him to Integris Baptist Hospital in Oklahoma City after the trainers and firefighters treated him on the sideline at Bronco Stadium. Kromer described the heart procedure that Sylvester underwent as minor.
“Once you get it managed, the person feels almost normal,” Kromer said.