Lute Olson's stroke happened sometime in last year, doctor says (with video)

2008-10-28T00:00:00Z Lute Olson's stroke happened sometime in last year, doctor says (with video) Arizona Daily Star
October 28, 2008 12:00 am

Lute Olson suffered a small stroke sometime in the past year, his doctor said today, that likely resulted in depression and changes in judgment.

The stroke was discovered Monday night when Dr. Steven Knope examined the results of an MRI. The 74-year-old was told the news and remains at his home in Tucson.

"He is frankly devastated," Knope said. "This is something that is simply beyond his control."

Knope and three family members — daughters Christi and Jody and grandson Matt — attended today's news conference. The family, watery-eyed at times, declined to speak.

Knope said he had advised Olson in recent weeks to step down from his head coaching position, saying Olson "just couldn't put the pieces together."

Knope decided to request an MRI for Olson because he wasn't responding to therapy and medication for depression.

"He knew something was wrong, but he couldn't quite put his finger on it," Knope said.

Last year during Olson's leave of absence, Knope said, those treatments were effective.

The stroke was caused when a clot likely traveled from his heart to his brain, Knope said. It did not come from stress and anxiety, though it might have caused stress and anxiety over the past year.

It is in Olson's frontal lobe, which Knope said controls "executive function, or planning," and "a center for personality."

Olson took a mental status evaluation two days ago, Knope said, and "scored almost perfectly." Knope described assistants who would wonder about Olson's state of mind, but then would be "amazed at moments of brilliance and insight."

Olson has experienced a recurrence of an atrial fibrillation — or abnormal heart rhythm — in recent months, but that likely occurred after the stroke, Knope said. Olson first experienced an atrial fibrillation in 2000, Knope said, but was treated with medication. He is now taking blood thinners.

For years, Olson has been treated for a familial tremor, not Parkinson's disease, the doctor said. The tremor causes involuntary shaking and voice trembling.

At an April press conference, Olson said his blood pressure was 113/65 and his resting heart rate 60. "Ill put my physical condition up against anybody," he said.

Knope cleared Olson medically to return to coach the team March 24.

Knope said today that he asked Olson if he wanted to speak publicly about the stroke. "He said, 'Boy, it'd really be tough,'" Knope said.

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