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On The Heart Beat

Hearts Have a Mind of Their Own

Hearts Have a Mind of Their Own
Published: 2020-07-28

What sort of grief molecule energizes the heart of an 89-year-old man whose deaths of wife, son, and daughter drove him to take up running and compete in marathons until he was 102?

What sort of mean molecule pushes win-at-any-cost athletes to head-butt, sharpen spikes or bite ears?

And what would happen if an athlete had a heart transplant?

Questions like these have always been intriguing. They became more intense when I learned that scientists confirmed what songsters have always known, that hearts have a mind of their own.

I’m kidding, right? No.

In 1991 J. Andrew Armour, M.D., Ph.D. discovered that the heart has its "little brain" or "intrinsic cardiac nervous system.” 

This "heart brain" is composed of approximately 40,000 neurons that are alike neurons in the brain, meaning that the heart has its own nervous system. In addition, the heart communicates with the brain in many methods: neurologically, biochemically, biophysically, and energetically.

That science nugget inflamed this sports scribe’s curiosity in so many ways. So many questions beg:

• What kind of heart gets up off the canvas in boxing to go on to win? The real Rocky (Marciano) did and remained undefeated after Jersey Joe Wolcott floored him in 1951.

• How did their hearts flutter as super athletes Megan Rapinoe and Sue Bird flirted with each other to become romantically committed?
• When he was a kid and playing money games with nary a cent in his pocket, did Lee Trevino’s heart pound?
• What level of courage existed in the heart of Luz Long, the German Olympian who helped American Jesse Owens win gold in the 1936 Berlin games as Hitler looked on?

This heart is smiling as SportsEdTV’s invitation to pursue those sorts of stories On The Heart Beat, promises to assuage a burning curiosity linking sports and joyful, courageous, aching, and determined hearts in the games we play.

With this introduction, it is hoped that your ongoing interest will be piqued enough to look for regular On The Heart Beat postings at SportsEdTV.

Currently, we’re working on:

• An international story coupling and 8-year-old Brazilian child with life-threatening leukemia and an American PGA golfer who’ve affected the lives and health of scores of other children and parents from around the world.
• A high school varsity soccer player who returned to the pitch and his team after a full heart transplant.
• A pair of wheelchair-bound tennis athletes whose joy of competition fuels their grit and determination.

In the interim you could energize your own heart with this old fashioned ditty, circa 1955, the refrain of which is personally incessant.

And the beat goes on.