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Grant Wahl Died of a Burst Blood Vessel, His Family Says


Grant Wahl, the celebrated soccer journalist who died suddenly last week on the World Cup in Qatar, had a rupture in a blood vessel leading from the center, his family announced on Wednesday.

His death resulted from a weakness in an artery wall called an aneurysm, which can balloon outward after which tear open. An autopsy conducted in Recent York revealed that Mr. Wahl, 49, experienced a catastrophic rupture within the ascending aorta, which carries oxygenated blood from the center.

The autopsy puts an end to rampant speculation that followed Mr. Wahl’s death. Posts on social media hinted at links to Covid vaccines or retaliation by the Qatari government for an article Mr. Wahl had written about immigrant deaths.

Mr. Wahl’s wife, Dr. Celine Gounder, is a number one infectious disease physician who rose to prominence throughout the coronavirus pandemic and advised President Biden’s transition team on Covid-19. She and the remaining of the family rejected, particularly, the speculation linking his death to vaccines, saying that it was especially insulting due to her work.

He probably died immediately and didn’t feel pain, Dr. Gounder said in an interview on Tuesday. “I actually do feel some relief in knowing what it was,” she said.

Mr. Wahl had been sick with a chilly for several days before collapsing, and had written in his newsletter and on Twitter that he felt his body was breaking down after weeks of poor sleep and long days covering the games.

He had just turned 49 and was quite healthy, making his death much more of a shock to his friends, family and readers. The sniffles and other cold symptoms he had were most certainly unrelated to the aneurysm, Dr. Gounder said.

Until the autopsy, Dr. Gounder said, she had been apprehensive that perhaps she could have prevented his death in the event that they had talked more often while he was in Qatar or if she had been there with him.

Mr. Wahl’s brother, Eric Wahl, initially said on social media that he suspected foul play and later suggested that his brother may need experienced a blood clot in his lungs. On Tuesday, Eric Wahl said that he now not believed those were aspects in his brother’s death.

The autopsy found that Mr. Wahl had an ascending thoracic aortic aneurysm, a weakening of the blood vessel that always goes undetected. Because the aneurysm grows, it might produce a cough, shortness of breath or chest pain, a few of which the doctors consulted by Mr. Wahl in Qatar may need attributed to his cold and a possible case of bronchitis.

In rare cases, the aneurysm can rupture and result in death. Doctors are actually exploring whether Mr. Wahl had Marfan syndrome, a risk factor for this kind of aneurysm. He was tall and thin and had long arms, all of which will be signs of the genetic syndrome.

Mr. Wahl joined Sports Illustrated in 1996 as a fact checker, a conventional entry route for young journalists, and wrote tons of of articles on a wide range of sports for the magazine over the subsequent twenty years.

One early profile, a canopy story on a teenage LeBron James in 2002, remained a touchstone for each author and subject 20 years later. Mr. Wahl would occasionally reminisce about it to his 850,000 followers on Twitter, and Mr. James spoke about its intending to him and his family while eulogizing the author at a news conference and on social media over the weekend.

But Mr. Wahl was best known for writing about soccer, which he began covering while he was a student reporter at Princeton University within the early Nineties. Through his books, tweets, podcasts and magazine articles, he became a guide of sorts for a generation of fans and readers just learning the sport.

He also used his profile and social-media megaphone to focus on the expansion of women’s soccer, the breadth of corruption in soccer, human rights violations and gay rights.

Mr. Wahl had worked at Sports Illustrated for greater than 23 years when the magazine’s publisher abruptly fired him over a dispute about pandemic-related pay cuts. But he had a big following by then, and began an email newsletter and podcast that quickly became successful.

In Qatar, Mr. Wahl was covering his eighth World Cup. He was within the press box within the closing minutes of the quarterfinal match between Argentina and the Netherlands when he collapsed.

In line with two Recent York Times journalists who were present, medical personnel tried to revive Mr. Wahl for about 20 minutes before he was transported to a hospital in Doha. He was pronounced dead on the hospital.

Dr. Gounder’s relationships with the Biden administration and public health agencies, including the Recent York City health department, helped her bring the unembalmed body to the US for the autopsy.

Dr. Gounder said she wanted to determine the circumstances of her husband’s death partly to quell online speculation. “I desired to make sure that the conspiracy theories about his death were put to rest,” she said.

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