Talking atrial fibrillation after J.J. Watt’s health scare: what it is, what it means

Arizona Cardinals defensive lineman J.J. Watt pauses on the practice field as he takes part in...
Arizona Cardinals defensive lineman J.J. Watt pauses on the practice field as he takes part in drills at the NFL football team's practice facility Tuesday, June 14, 2022, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)(Ross D. Franklin | AP)
Published: Oct. 4, 2022 at 9:57 AM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- After Arizona Cardinals player J.J. Watt’s health scare where he went into A-Fib and had to have his heart shocked back into rhythm, many sports fans are asking what exactly that means as a health condition.

Watts himself spoke in a press interview after Sunday’s game saying that he was happy to be playing ball again. “It was weird. Just weird. I have a baby on the way,” he said. “The boys played good today. I don’t want to take away from a great game. the boys played a great game.” Coach Kliff Kingsbury said the team didn’t have any concerns about Watt’s health prior to the game. “J.J. was on top of everything as he is,” he said. “So we felt like we were in a good place with it.”

Despite all of the reassurance, the circumstances beg the question of whether or not it was actually safe for Watts to be playing on Sunday just days after having to have his heart shocked back into rhythm. Doctor Michael White, cardiologist and chief clinical officer at Valleywise Health, joined Good Morning, Arizona to talk about the condition and its risks.

“When the top chamber of the heart and the bottom chamber of the heart are out of sync, everyone is different,” said Dr. White. “Some people don’t even know it’s occurred.” The doctor said that as the heart is more active, it tends to be more efficient because it has to pump blood even harder but that a-fib is still very possible regardless of how healthy you are.

Dr. White said that as for Watts returning to the feel, “Doctors can get folks back into rhythm by shocking them, and then they can get back to normal activity.” If people are in a-fib consistently, the doctor said the heart will get tired and weaker over time and could be more susceptible to damage. “This rhythm exists in a lot of people, and probably people that you know that suffer from atrial fibrillation. It’s not an uncommon problem.”