Sam Maresh to Undergo Open-Heart Surgery

Sam Maresh, a 6-foot-3, 235-pound linebacker, will undergo open heart surgery June 26 after a doctor discovered a congenital heart defect, an aortic valve with a serious leak and an enlarged ventricle. Maresh held a news conference at Champlin Park to discuss a recently discovered medical condition. Maresh was considered one of the Gophers' top signees and a potential freshman starter.

A heart murmur was discovered during a routine pre-participation physical on Sam Maresh at the University of Minnesota on June 2. Following additional diagnostic testing and examinations, Maresh was diagnosed with a bicuspid aortic valve and other related cardiac complications.

The consensus medical opinion recommended surgical intervention to replace or repair the abnormal valve. The surgery will be performed by Dr. Hartzell Schaff.

"The priority of Sam living a long and full life has been the No. 1 concern through this process," said Sam's father, Bill Maresh. "As most of you would guess, Sam asked the doctors ‘Will I be able to play football again?' I'm sure many others will ask the same question. I want to state that we, including Sam, have accepted that this surgery is necessary for Sam to have a long and full life. Sam chose to have the valve repaired if possible. With the tissue valve, Sam has a chance of playing again. Of course, the surgery would have to be a success, his ventricle will have to return to normal size and his breastbone will have to mend strong enough to handle the impacts of football. So the answer to the question ‘Will Sam be able to play football again?' cannot be answered at the present time.

"Julie and I are so thankful for all the University of Minnesota has done, from detecting the heart murmur to referring us to possibly the best surgeon in the world, Dr. Schaff," the elder Maresh added. "We are most thankful for the prayers we have received through the last week and we ask that you continue to pray for Sam through his surgery and his recovery."

Minnesota head football coach Tim Brewster expressed his concern and support for Sam and the Maresh family.

"First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers are with Sam and his family," Brewster said. "Recently, during a routine physical exam, Sam was found to have a heart abnormality. We are so fortunate our doctors found this before any potential complications arose. The Mareshes are an amazingly strong family and they will help Sam through this difficult time. The Gopher football family will support Sam and the Maresh family in any way we can."

According to Dr. Pat Smith, Gopher team physician and orthopedic surgeon, pre-participation physicals are conducted on all incoming athletes. The physicals are designed to detect potential problems that may require further evaluation before the student-athlete is cleared to participate in athletic activity for the University of Minnesota.

Smith and Minnesota head football athletic trainer Ed Lochrie coordinated efforts to obtain consultations and opinions for treatment options after reviewing the diagnosis.

Maresh was an all-state linebacker and two-time Northwest Suburban Conference Defensive Player of the Year for Champlin Park High School. He was one of six players named to the 2007 Minneapolis Star-Tribune Super Preps team. Maresh was also among the top prep wrestlers in the state during his high school career. He won three consecutive Minnesota Class AAA wrestling championships, winning the 215-pound weight class as a sophomore and taking the title at 285 pounds in his final two years of high school.

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