Bulawan death underlines need for emergency services in PBA team practices, says top doc
Gilbert Bulawan's playing jerseys and shoes are on display at his wake at the Funeraria Paz in Sucat, Paranaque. The PBA player died on Sunday after collapsing during Blackwater's practice.

THE death of Blackwater forward Gilbert Bulawan has underscored the need for the PBA to put premium on the welfare of players not only in games but more so in practices, a former president of the Philippine Heart Association said.

Well-known cardiologist and Philippine Heart Center doctor Marcelito Durante said emergency services that are required during league games should be all the more present during team practices, which are often more strenuous to all the players in one ballclub.

Durante, who is the cardiologist of former President Joseph Estrada, spoke just days after Bulawan, 29, collapsed during Blackwater's practice at the SGS Gym and was declared dead on arrival at the Capitol Medical Center.

An autopsy report later revealed the PBA player suffered from an enlarged heart.

“Strictly speaking wala ba ngayon (first aid team)? I think, that will be ideal, a doctor who is on standby during practice and an ambulance, anything can really happen, I don’t want to say i-require, but that will be ideal,” Durante said. 

A standby doctor during practices will save lives, the doctor added.

“It’s very important because yung emergency CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) may be initiated by the doctor, who should be available and who would know what to do, kailangan may practice yan,” he said.

[See Heartbreaking scenes as Gilbert Bulawan's wife, kin mourn untimely death]

Durante also advised all PBA teams and other sports leagues to take more precautionary measures for athletes, especially now that cardiac arrest has claimed a lot of young lives.

He suggested regular checkups for athletes as well as BP monitoring before and after games and practices.

“Ideally dapat may BP check-up, madali naming mag acquire ng sphygmomanometer, mayroon na ngang digital n'yan eh,” he said.

“Basta proper precautions must be in place kasi hindi biro ang cardiac arrest. And what’s alarming is pabata na ng pabata ang mga tinatamaan nyan, may mga kaso kami na namatay in their 20’s lang, tulad yang player, 29 years old lang.”

An annual check-up required by the Games Amusement Board (GAB) on pro players during license renewals may not be enough, he added.

“Personally, suggestion ko dyan, if an athlete will compete, yung physical exam may not be enough, dapat merun silang routine x-ray, blood examination, plus thread mill test (stress test) and 2-d echo cardiogram test with Doppler study,” said Durante.

“Pwedeng on their own 'yan (gastos) o covered by the team they are working with or they play for,” he added. “It is very likely na may heart problem yan nami-miss (sa mga regular check-up).


Asked if Bulawan’s enlarged heart would have been detected had he undergone a thorough check-up, Durante nodded.

“Yung may enlargement of the heart, more often than not, nakikita yan sa exam, most of them, naririnig namin yun, routine check-up atleast once year will determine that, apart from check-up ng GAB, para mas safe ang athlete. Athlete ang mga yan eh,” he said.

“Posibleng hindi na-detect na merun siyang heart problem, to start with, it’s very unlikely na atakihin ang tao na walang heart condition at heart problem, most especially an athlete,” he added.

Meanwhile, the GAB has reportedly stepped in and has already asked the PBA to furnish it with a copy of the official report on the death of Bulawan.

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