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Malcolm Cook returns from scary illness as Virginia football starts spring practice

Linebacker hopes to reboot career plagued by injuries

Virginia v Duke Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

Just a little over seven months ago, the UVa football team released its first depth chart of the Bronco Mendenhall era. Most of us who follow the program closely were shocked to not see Malcolm Cook anywhere on the two-deep. At the time, the explanation was simply that Cook was dealing with a medical issue.

Later in the year, we learned that he would be shut down for the entire season, but with hopes of returning for spring ball.

Now, he’s back—and from what turned out to be a much more serious setback than any of us may have imagined.

Jeff White had a write-up on Cook’s return for

On Aug. 26, however, the 6-1, 225-pound Cook reported to the training room in distress. In a post-practice workout that morning, he'd fallen twice, Cook recalled. He initially thought he was cramping up, but the severe pain in his chest persisted, and he went to see Kelli Pugh, UVA's associate athletic trainer for football. ...

From the McCue Center, Cook went directly to the emergency room at the UVA hospital. There, he was given blood tests and an electrocardiogram (EKG) and an echocardiogram. They revealed a problem that was eventually diagnosed as myocarditis, a disease marked by inflammation of and damage to the heart muscle.

"Similar to what you see in a heart attack," Pugh said.

That’s a terrifying diagnosis for anyone, but especially a young athlete. It’s the same condition that killed NBA player Reggie Lewis in 1993.

Thankfully, myocarditis can be overcome with rest and treatment. And after months of carefully monitored rehab, Cook has a clean bill of health to return to the field. Hopefully Malcolm will remain healthy through 2017 and be able to contribute the perspective he gained from helping Mendenhall send in plays from the sidelines.