Updated at 2:40 p.m. with John Harbaugh’s comment on his brother
San Francisco 49ers Coach Jim Harbaugh had to do what NFL coaches most hate to do: He was forced to spend some time away from the team just days before a very big game.
Harbaugh, according to ESPN, returned briefly to the team Thursday after having what the 49ers said was a minor procedure to correct an irregular heartbeat. He is expected to be able to resume a normal schedule immediately and coach as usual in the Monday night game against the Chicago Bears.
“Coach Harbaugh, like he always tells us, he’s tougher than a two-dollar steak,” Patrick Willis said. “We know he’s going to be all right.”
A 49ers spokesman said that Harbaugh became uncomfortable Wednesday night and met with doctors at Stanford Hospital. Matthew DeVane, a Walnut Creek, Calif., cardiologist and president of the East Bay Board of Directors of the American Heart Association, told the San Francisco Chronicle that Harbaugh probably had atrial fibrillation, the most common abnormal heart rhythm. DeVane, though, did not treat Harbaugh.
“It can just cause the heart to race and flutter and can make you feel uncomfortable,” DeVane said. “It’s a minor procedure and, again, this is guesswork, but it’s called a cardioversion where we put the patient to sleep for just a few minutes and give the heart a little zap to try to reset it back into a normal rhythm. It’s a very, very common procedure. It’s done on an outpatient basis. Usually people are home within two hours and ready to go the next day with no limitations or restrictions.”
Harbaugh’s brother, Baltimore Ravens Coach John Harbaugh, offered a little more information. “He’s feeling good,” John Harbaugh said today (via the Baltimore Sun’s Aaron Wilson). “He had a little procedure. He’s had it before. I guess it’s a little more advanced now [with] his heart rate and things like that. So it should correct that. He’s back at work today from what I understand.”
Triggering factors can include stress, lack of sleep and too much caffeine — three pillars of a coach’s lifestyle. The condition can also be treated with medication as well as behavior modification. Which might not be terribly successful with a nearly 49-year-old NFL coach known for his intensity.
“Sometimes I feel like there’s five Jim Harbaughs in this building, because he’s everywhere,” quarterback Scott Tolzien said. “So today it was a little different with everyone wondering because he’s always flying around.”
Now, ahead of Monday’s game, everyone can go back to wondering about the availability of quarterback Alex Smith, who suffered a concussion last Sunday, and just what Pete Carroll, long a Harbaugh rival, was up to with this tweet.
Sending out best wishes to Jim Harbaugh for a quick recovery… Get well soon, we gotta alotta ball games left!
— Pete Carroll (@PeteCarroll) November 15, 2012