UVA defensive end tackles a tough decision related to COVID-19


PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Richard Burney, at 6 feet 4 inches tall and 285 pounds, had six starts and 21 tackles last year for the University of Virginia Cavaliers.

But a mysterious disorder kept the defensive end on the sidelines the previous season. In 2018, he started experiencing shortness of breath after a game against Ohio University.

“As the week progressed, I started feeling worse and worse — short of breath — I was getting more tired easily; hard for me to breathe. They sent me to the hospital and I got diagnosed with pulmonary embolism, that’s basically blood clots,” said Burney. In the emergency room, Burney was injected with a blood thinner that stabilized his condition. He used a second drug to reduce the risk of blood clots.

As schools and leagues around the country are making tough decisions on whether to play ball this fall, Burney has already made a tough decision about his health.

Burney had the blood clots but doctors have not been able to find out why. He’s been cleared to continue playing ball.

“They told me that they don’t think that this happened from any other underlying condition and they didn’t think it was hereditary; so they gave me the OK to play,” said Burney.

According to WebMD, doctors treating COVID-19 patients have seen the rapid formation of numerous blood clots that are described as being “all over the place.”

Burney, who has already graduated with a degree in American Studies, carefully added the COVID-19 threat to the equation when considering whether to return in hopes of one more season with the Cavaliers.

“If you contract COVID-19, having those things to form, yes, that is scary. However, I really want to play football. This is my last year. I want to finish my master’s [degree in higher education] as well,” he said.

Left to right: Richelle Burney, Richard Burney and Shaunte Burney (Photo courtesy: Richard Burney Sr.)

According to WAVY sister station WFXR-TV, since July 5, four out of 238 UVA athletes from seven sports have tested positive for COVID-19.

Burney was not one of them, and he has confidence in the UVA COVID-19 safety program.

The difficult decision has the support of his parents. Richard Burney Sr. made headlines for Lake Taylor High School in Norfolk and later with Wisconsin.

“We are following CDC guidelines, social distancing, doing everything that we can. I can assure you without the protocols in place, I would not be here now,” said Burney.

Signing Day with parents Laureen and Richard Burney Sr. (Photo courtesy: Richard Burney Sr.)

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