Referee Who Collapsed During NCAA Tournament Reveals What Happened

By Bill Galluccio

April 9, 2021

Long-time NCAA official Bert Smith says that his collapse during the NCAA Basketball Tournament saved his life. Smith discussed the terrifying incident when he suddenly fell to the floor during the West Region final between Gonzaga and USC with the Indianapolis Star.

Smith was unconscious for several moments and was confused when he first woke up on the court surrounded by the medical staff.

"I look to my left, and it's a doctor," Bert told the paper. "I say, 'What's going on, man?' And he goes, 'Bert, you passed out. You blacked out.'
"I said: 'What?'

He was wheeled off the court in a stretcher, much to his dismay, and was given a clean bill of health after undergoing two hours of tests at the stadium. He returned to his hotel room but was talked into going to the hospital to get checked out as a precaution because of how hard his head hit the floor.

That's where Bert learned what caused him to suddenly collapse. He had a blood clot in his lung, and if left untreated, it could have killed him. He credited Dr. Katie Trammel with going the extra mile to determine what was wrong with him.

"She sits down next to the bed," Smith continues, "and she says: 'I saw your fall tonight. Something doesn't add up. I want to know why you fell.' She checked a few things out, came back in, and took me through the car wash. Just a lot of tests. And they found out.
"She said: 'I got the answer to the question. You went down because you had a blood clot in your lung.'"

Bert was put on blood thinners, which dissolved the clot. He was released from the hospital after two days. He said that the scary experience gave him a new look on life because the clot could have killed him.

"It puts in perspective the value of each day because we all go through our lives – we're all guilty of it – and we just live, right? But do we say 'I love you enough? Do we give an extra hug enough? Do we do the things with our family and friends that have value to them? When you live something like I did, it hits you square in the eyes that you really have to value each day."

Photo: Getty Images

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