Former Flyer back on skates for stroke recovery

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A former Philadelphia Flyer is helping raise awareness about a common heart condition and how it can raise the risk for stroke. (WPVI)

Time and again in the 1980s, Philadelphia Flyers fans heard the call, "He shoots, he scores!!!"

Number 28, Brian Propp, was a key part of the Flyers offense, delivering exciting plays.

"Click," echoes across the hall at Magee Rehabilitation Hospitalin Center City, as therapists hook Propp into the harness of the Vector system.

Today, he's back in the orange and black, fighting a different opponent - the after-effects of a stroke he suffered last September, during a family get-away in Annapolis, Maryland.

"I remember falling out of bed in the middle of the night," he recalls.

Propp's right side was motionless and his speech garbled.

The stroke was likely due to an episode of atrial fibrillation, or A-fib.

Propp was treated for A-fib several years ago, and thought it was under control.

Dr. Guillermo Linares of Temple Health, says when the chambers of the heart beat out of sync, clots can form.

"There is a risk a clot will dislodge from the heart and travel to a different part of the body," says Dr. Linares.

If the clot goes to the brain, it can trigger a stroke.

When Propp came to Magee Rehabilitation Hospital, therapists decided skating was the perfect therapy to strengthen his right leg, and restore right arm motion.

"The brain remembers exactly what it's like to be in that role," says occupational therapist Paula Bonsall.

"So the limbs moved easier, and his hips moved easier, and his shoulder moved easier," she adds.

And these familiar motions also help patients like Propp recover speech easier.

Propp made fast progress, and didn't mind repeating moves over and over.

"I love playing hockey and skating, and it helped inspire me," Propp says.

"You could really see him light up when he got into that setting," says physical therapist Erin Trudell.

"He shoots, he scores!" says Propp with a broad smile as he skates down the hall, pumping his hand into the air.

His outlook was also a plus.

"I always had the attitude that I was going to get better, and was positive," he says.

Propp isn't completely recovered, but is back to work, family life, Flyers events - and as an ambassador for the American Heart Association, carrying a message for anyone with A-fib.

"Listen, be careful, take your doctor's appointments, and don't cancel them, because it can save your life," he cautions.

Doctors now believe A-fib is a bigger cause of strokes than previously thought, especially in younger people.

The key to preventing stroke or heart failure is regular check-ups, so problems can be detected and treated early.

"Very frequently, atrial fibrillation is silent, the patient doesn't know it's happening, but it still puts the patient at risk," says Dr. Linares.

To learn more about stroke - including the FAST method of recognizing them, see the American Heart Association.

For more about Brian Propp,click here.

Related Topics:
healthhealthcheckPhiladelphia Flyersstroke
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