Dr. William Bommer, a UC Davis professor and the President of the American College of Cardiology for California, said it sounded as if 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh might have experienced atrial fibrillation, the most common cardiac arrhythmia and one that wouldn't have been picked up during the annual physical examinations Harbaugh has had since joining the 49ers.
Bommer said that one of the contributing factors for atrial fibrillation is stress. "I can imagine if you're under pressure to win all the time, that could be a little stressful," he said.
A common procedure to treat atrial fibrillation, Bommer said, is elective cardioversion, during which the patient is sedated and an electric impulse is used to put the heart back into a regular rhythm. "It works in well over 90 percent of the cases," Bommer said. "Literally within four hours, the patient can go home."
Bommer said that in general doctors will tell patients who have had cardioversion to get plenty of sleep, to cut down on caffeine and alcohol and to work on reducing stress in their lives. How Harbaugh, who is among the most animated coaches on game days (and sometimes even in press conferences), handles that last recommendation should be interesting.
-- Matt Barrows