LeBron James, left, poses with his son Bronny after Sierra Canyon beat Akron St. Vincent - St. Mary in a high school basketball game, December 14, 2019, in Columbus, Ohio. Mandatory Credit: Jay LaPrete/AP
Originally Published: 27 JUL 23 12:26 ET
Updated: 27 JUL 23 13:48 ET

(CNN) — LeBron James tweeted about his son Bronny James on Thursday for the first time since the 18-year-old suffered a cardiac arrest earlier this week, thanking well-wishers for sending his family “love and prayers.”

“We feel you and I’m so grateful. Everyone doing great,” the NBA superstar wrote. “We have our family together, safe and healthy, and we feel your love. Will have more to say when we’re ready but I wanted to tell everyone how much your support has meant to all of us! #JamesGang”

Bronny James, an incoming freshman for the University of Southern California men’s basketball team, suffered a cardiac arrest during a practice Monday and was hospitalized, according to a statement Tuesday from a family spokesperson. James was in stable condition, having been taken out of the intensive care unit, the statement said.

Cardiac arrest occurs when electrical disturbances cause the heart to suddenly stop beating. It may be fatal if not immediately treated but can be reversed by CPR and a defibrillator, according to the American Heart Association.

Sudden cardiac arrest among young athletes is rare but not unheard of. A 2011 study that examined NCAA student-athlete sudden deaths between 2004 and 2008 found cardiovascular-related sudden death was the leading cause of death in 45 cases, or about 9 each year.

However, Dr. Jonathan Drezner, who specializes in sports cardiology at the University of Washington Medical Center, told CNN that James “represents the single highest athlete risk group” for sudden cardiac arrest. Drezner’s research shows Black male NCAA athletes who play Division I basketball have a 1 in 2,000 chance of experiencing sudden cardiac arrest each year. The risk in a White male Division I basketball player is 1 in 5,000, according to his research.

“Adolescent male basketball players and college male basketball players, for reasons that we don’t fully understand, are by far our single highest risk group of athletes for sudden cardiac arrest,” Drezner said. “In my opinion, they should all be screened with more robust and intensive cardiac screening than occurs typically.”

James had a cardiac screening several months ago as part of a program for prospective NBA players, according to a source familiar with the matter. The screening included a transthoracic echocardiogram, which looks at blood flow through the heart and heart valves, and an EKG, which is a recording of the heart’s electrical activity, the source said. Both screenings came back with normal results.

The 6-foot-3 combo guard graduated this spring from Sierra Canyon High School in Los Angeles, where he averaged 14.1 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.7 steals his senior year. He was rated a four-star recruit, and he stood out in the McDonald’s All-American Game in March, featuring some of the country’s top high school basketball players.

Experts say it’s hard to map out exactly what James’ recovery will look like until more is known about the cause of his cardiac arrest and his specific health condition. But the fact that he was treated immediately and is already out of the intensive care unit bodes well for his recovery, Drezner said.

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