The University of Connecticut has announced that a football player suffered a stroke on October 10.
Linebacker Eli Thomas, a junior, was scheduled to lift weights on that Wednesday, but had to be immediately transported to a hospital after he had the stroke.
In a statement, the school said Thomas was in stable condition, making “good progress toward recovery.”
Pat McKenna, UConn’s associate director of athletics for athletic communications, sent out what’s being called a joint statement that included testimony from Thomas’s mother.
"Thank you all for your love and well wishes for Eli," Mary Beth Turner said. "To say we are stunned by this turn of events is an understatement! A strong, healthy, 22-year old man having a stroke is not anything we anticipated. However, Eli will fight back as he has with every challenge that has come his way with 'Eli Style.'”
Thomas played at Lackawanna College in Scranton, Pennsylvania before moving on to UConn in 2017. There, he only played five games because of knee injuries.
“Eli was quiet. He wasn’t the loud, verbose, yell-at-you kind of guy,” said Lackawanna head coach Mark Duda. “He was more of a cerebral kid and always took amazing care of his body. Whenever you saw him, he had a gallon of water in his hand.”
Because of Thomas’s physical condition and his age, Duda said the stroke didn’t make sense to him.
Dr. Amre Nouh, medical director for the Comprehensive Stroke Center at Hartford Hospital, said that while the cause hasn’t been released yet, in someone in their 20s like Thomas, stroke may be related to a tear of the blood vessels in the neck.
“Up to one-in-four strokes can happen because of a tear in the blood vessels of the neck, which usually signifies an underlying connective tissue disorder that’s not diagnosed or could be related to trauma—some sort of sheer injury or whiplash injury to the neck region that could be associated with a small tear in the blood vessel and cause a clot to form and then go to the brain and cause a stroke,” Nouh said.
The recovery, according to Nouh, depends on how the stroke is treated, but he said that the brain is more resilient in younger stroke victims, so Thomas has a better chance at recovery than someone who’s older.