U.S. Women's National Team Captain Carla Overbeck Diagnosed with Grave's Disease
Grave's Disease is an autoimmune condition of the thyroid gland, which is located in the neck and produces thyroxine. Elevated levels of thyroxine can cause accelerated metabolism, weight loss, tremors, elevated heart rate as well as exercise and heat intolerance.
"My goal is to get her back to top performance as soon as possible," said Dr. Ann Brown, an Endocrinolgist at Duke University, where Overbeck is an assistant women's soccer coach. "I'm impressed with how few symptoms she showed, except when she was at peak performance. Since she has so few symptoms at rest, I'm optimistic for a very rapid recovery. Her physical performance will not suffer in any way when this is fully treated."
Overbeck underwent treatment yesterday to control the over-production of thyroxine by the thyroid gland. Overbeck will need to monitor her condition along with team doctors, and will not play tonight against Iceland at Ericsson Stadium in Charlotte, N.C. (ESPN2 at 9 p.m. ET), but will be able to resume full-time training when the USA begins its residency camp period in San Diego on April 17.
"For the last few months I really haven't been feeling well, especially during training," said Overbeck, who captained the USA to a gold medal in the 1996 Olympics and to the 1999 Women's World Cup title. "Fortunately, I now know why I was having trouble and we are taking the measures to correct the problems. I am confident that our great group of doctors will do what's best to get me back to top playing condition as soon as possible."
"If anyone can overcome this condition to compete at a world class level, it's Carla Overbeck," said U.S. Team Physician Dr. Joyce Tarbet. "This condition has clearly affected her training and performance for the last month or so, but I'm optimistic that the treatment will allow her to achieve the level of fitness and competitiveness that she is used to."
U.S. sprinter Gail Devers was also diagnosed with Grave's Disease in 1988 and recovered to win gold medals in the 100-meter dash at both the 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games.
Overbeck has played 161 times for the USA since her debut in 1988. She scored the crucial first penalty kick during the shootout at the historic 1999 Women's World Cup Final. The cause of Grave's Disease is autoimmune in nature, and while it is not known what triggers the condition, it is not related to intense physical activity.
"I told Carla that she did not have anything to prove to me," said U.S. head coach April Heinrichs, who preceded Overbeck as captain of the U.S. and who played alongside her on the 1991 Women's World Cup championship team. "I know that when she is healthy, she is one of the fittest players on this team. She continues to be a great leader and motivator. She's a world class player and I know that when she gets this condition under control, that she will be a consistent figure in our preparations as we move towards the Olympics."