There is no doubt that the sudden death of sports journalist Grant Wahl last week came as a shock to everyone who knew him. Upon collapsing while covering a soccer match in Qatar 2022, it was determined that he had died from an undiagnosed aortic aneurysm.
This particular condition can be fatal if left untreated; unfortunately for Wahl, his death was quite sudden.
What made this all the more tragic is that Wahl was only 48 years old at the time of his passing – far too young to die suddenly like that. He had carved out a successful career as one of America’s most respected sports journalists, writing for publications such as Sports Illustrated and Fox Soccer Channel.
And it wasn’t just his work ethic or journalistic talent which set him apart; he was also known for being outgoing and good-natured, making friends wherever he went. In short, Grant Wahl led what appeared to be a fulfilled life – until one day. He unexpectedly passed away due to an undetected health issue.
“Unfortunately, aortic aneurysm is asymptomatic,” Dr. Ramesh Mazhari, an international cardiologist and professor at George Washington University. “Most people don’t know that they have it until one of these catastrophic complications occur.” (Barnett, 2022)
During his coverage of the Argentina-Netherlands quarterfinal in Qatar, Wahl “felt ill,” according to a spokeswoman for the Qatari FIFA World Cup organizing committee who spoke to Fox News.
Aortic aneurysms are weak spots or bulges in the aorta, the large artery that transports blood from the heart to the body’s other organs. When an aneurysm ruptures, it can cause severe internal bleeding and death.
Aneurysms are most common in people over age 65, but they can occur at any age.
Risk factors include:
- High blood pressure
- Family history of aneurysms
- Other types of genetic diseases, such as Marfan syndrome or Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.
- Undergoing radiation therapy
- Being over 60 years old
Symptoms may include:
- Sudden chest pain or tightness.
- Shortness of breath.
- Pain in the back or abdomen.
- Rapid heartbeat.
- Unexplained weakness or numbness.
- Vomiting and lightheadedness.
These symptoms may be caused by the swelling or tearing of the fabric liner inside weakened sections (aneurysms) on artery walls.
“The guidelines suggest that every man over the age of 65, who has ever smoked, should get an ultrasound to look for aneurysms in the abdominal areas,” Dr. Mazhari said. “And if there’s family history, the screening should occur 10 years earlier, at the age of 55.”
Screening and Prevention:
Early detection through screening is vital for preventing death due to a ruptured aortic aneurysm.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that all men over 65 who have smoked should get screened for abdominal aneurysms using ultrasound technology.
Despite early detection and treatment interventions available today, mortality rates associated with ruptured thoracic or abdominal aneurysms remain high – approximately 50 percent within 30 days of diagnosis.
However, recent advances in surgical techniques and perioperative care offer patients increased chances for survival following surgery.
“Unfortunately a lot of times, these are just incidental findings, you go get a scan for something else and they tell you that you have an aneurysm,” she said. “You’re lucky if that happens to you.” (Barnett, 2022)