Prominent American soccer journalist Grant Wahl, who died last week while covering the quarterfinals at the World Cup in Qatar, suffered an aortic aneurysm, his wife said Wednesday.
In a post on her husband’s Substack site, Dr. Céline Gounder wrote that Wahl’s body was returned to the U.S. on Monday and 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,” wrote Gounder, who is an infectious disease specialist. “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.”
An ascending aortic aneurysm is a weak spot at the top of the aorta, the main blood vessel in the body, which may cause it to bulge, tear or break open. While many patients with aortic aneurysms don’t experience symptoms, the condition can cause chest pain, coughing or wheezing, and shortness of breath.
Wahl, who had just turned 49, wrote on his Substack a few days before his death that he’d been feeling ill with cold symptoms that had worsened and included pressure in his upper chest. He sought treatment at a medical clinic where doctors suspected he had bronchitis, he wrote. He was covering the World Cup quarterfinal between Argentina and the Netherlands on Friday when he collapsed. He received medical attention at the stadium before being taken to a local hospital by ambulance.
In an interview on “CBS Mornings,” Gounder said Wednesday the aneurysm had “been likely brewing for years.” The autopsy report puts an end to rampant speculation on social media about the cause of Wahl’s death.
Grant Wahl’s wife, Dr. @celinegounder, reveals that the renowned journalist died due to an aortic aneurysm that ruptured at the World Cup.
Gounder says she hopes he is remembered as a “kind, generous person who was really dedicated to social justice.” pic.twitter.com/aaVkb2dhrb
— CBS Mornings (@CBSMornings) December 14, 2022
Earlier in the tournament, Wahl made headlines when he tweeted about his experience with stadium security, saying he was detained for 30 minutes because he was wearing a rainbow shirt in support of the LGBTQ+ community. Same-sex relations are illegal in Qatar. Wahl, who was covering the tournament for CBS Sports, later tweeted that he was eventually allowed to enter the stadium wearing the shirt.
Throughout a career that spanned more than 25 years, with most of that time spent at Sports Illustrated, Wahl covered multiple World Cups and Olympic Games. In 2009, he wrote the bestseller “The Beckham Experiment.” On Monday, Wahl was among a group of 82 journalists who were honored for covering eight or more men’s World Cups.
“For him, soccer was more than just a sport,” Gounder told CBS. “It was this thing that connected people around the world. There’s so much about the culture, the politics of soccer. To him, it was a way of really understanding people and where they were coming from.”
Tributes to Wahl have poured in from around the globe.
“It is some comfort to know that so many people Grant reached — countless colleagues, readers, athletes, coaches, friends, and fans —are grieving alongside us,” Gounder wrote.
FIFA officials have paid tribute to Grant Wahl by placing flowers & a photo of him on the desk he would have used to cover England v France tonight. The US journalist, who turned 48 on Thursday, collapsed while reporting on Argentina v Netherlands last night and tragically died. pic.twitter.com/AnADDkro4T
— David Ornstein (@David_Ornstein) December 10, 2022
“While the world knew Grant as a great journalist, we knew him as a man who approached the world with openness and love,” Gounder wrote on Substack. “Grant was an incredibly empathetic, dedicated, and loving husband, brother, uncle, and son who was our greatest teammate and fan. We will forever cherish the gift of his life; to share his company was our greatest love and source of joy.”
Gounder said details on a memorial service will come later.
More on the life and career of Grant Wahl:
(Photo: Fred Kfoury III /Icon Sportswire /Corbis / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
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