Ex-USC DT OK after heart issue

Updated: March 7, 2012, 7:46 PM ET
By Pedro Moura | ESPNLosAngeles.com

LOS ANGELES -- Former USC defensive tackle DaJohn Harris was not allowed to work out at the NFL combine last month because doctors found a small hole in his heart during a physical examination in Indianapolis, Harris revealed Wednesday at USC's pro day.

Harris, projected as a mid-round pick in April's draft, visited an Arizona cardiologist with agent Joe Panos shortly after the combine and found that the hole was normal and natural. He said his doctor has since emailed all 32 NFL teams, alerting them of his status and permitting him to work out as usual.

Harris, a two-year starter for the Trojans, has a condition known as a PFO, or patent foramen ovale, discovered after NFL doctors ordered him to undergo an EKG and echocardiogram in Indianapolis.

The condition is a small hole located in the heart that all humans have until birth that assists with blood flow. Most holes close upon birth, but in roughly 25 percent of humans, the hole never completely closes naturally and for those people it is not typically treated as an issue.

However, some recent studies have suggested there is a three-fold increase in the risk of stroke in people under 55 with a PFO. Former New England Patriots linebacker and current ESPN analyst Tedy Bruschi had a PFO discovered after his stroke in 2005 that occurred just after the Super Bowl.

"They were trying to link it somehow," Harris said Wednesday.

Harris, 23, worked out at USC's pro day Wednesday, running the 40-yard dash in 5.10 seconds and measuring in at 6-foot-3 and 304 pounds. He also participated in defensive line drills with first-round prospect Nick Perry and other former USC linemen.

"This is my combine," Harris said afterward. "I got to talk to teams but I didn't get to do anything else, so this is my combine."

He said he continues to hear from NFL teams that he will be a mid-round selection and said he hopes the condition will not hurt his draft status.

"I hope they realize that I'm fine," Harris said. "I've never had a problem with this before."

He also said he didn't fault teams for being cautious with him, including the Cleveland Browns doctor who initially uncovered it.

"I'm not mad at any of the decisions they made," he said. "If you're (going to) invest a lot of money in someone, you're going to make sure that everything is 100 percent right."

Pedro Moura covers USC for ESPNLosAngeles.com.

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