Legendary soccer journalist Grant Wahl died in Qatar while covering the 2022 World Cup from a previously undiagnosed medical condition, his wife wrote Wednesday.
“An autopsy was performed by the New York City Medical Examiner’s Office. Grant died from the rupture of a slowly growing, undetected ascending aortic aneurysm with hemopericardium. The chest pressure he experienced shortly before his death may have represented the initial symptoms. No amount of CPR or shocks would have saved him. His death was unrelated to COVID. His death was unrelated to vaccination status. There was nothing nefarious about his death,” Dr. Celine Gounder wrote on her late husband’s blog.
(Dr. Gounder is herself a well-known New York City physician, whose expertise in infectious diseases made her a prominent figure during the COVID-19 pandemic.)
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Wahl’s body was returned to the United States on Monday.
Wahl, an American journalist who helped grow the popularity of soccer in the United States and reported on some of the biggest stories in the sport, was 49.
Wahl, who had complained of respiratory problems prior to his death and had been treated for a possible case of bronchitis, fell back in his seat in a section of Qatar’s Lusail Stadium reserved for journalists during extra time of the Argentina-Netherlands quarterfinals match last week. Reporters adjacent to him called for assistance.
Emergency services workers responded very quickly, treated him for 20 or 30 minutes on site and then took him out on a stretcher. The World Cup organizing committee said he was taken to Doha’s Hamad General Hospital, but it did not state a cause of death.
Wahl wrote for Sports Illustrated for more than two decades and then started his own website. He was a major voice informing an American public of soccer during a time of increased interest after the United States hosted the 1994 World Cup.
What Is an Aortic Aneurysm?
The news about Wahl’s cause of death will likely shine a spotlight on aortic aneurysms, what they are and how they can kill an otherwise healthy person so quickly.
According to the CDC, an aortic aneurysm is a “balloon-like bulge in the aorta, the large artery that carries blood from the heart through the chest and torso.” They kill by dissecting or rupturing, leading to significant blood loss. (Gounder noted that Wahl suffered from hemopericardium, which refers to blood filling the sac around the heart.)
Such aneurysms kill nearly 10,000 people a year in the United States, per CDC data.