The unexpected death of well-known American soccer writer Grant Wahl last week was caused by an aortic aneurysm, according to his family.
In a post on Wahl’s Substack, Céline Gounder, Wahl’s wife and an infectious-disease physician, wrote that autopsy results determined the 49-year-old died from the rupture of an undetected ascending aortic aneurysm, a bulge in the artery that carries blood from the heart.
Wahl was covering the World Cup in Qatar when he suddenly collapsed during a match last Friday. He was given medical assistance at the stadium and transferred to a hospital, but was later pronounced dead. Wahl’s body was transported back to the United States and an autopsy was conducted by the New York City medical examiner’s office.
The circumstances of Wahl’s death immediately prompted speculation and suspicion. Wahl, who had been treated for bronchitislike symptoms before his death, had previously reported being blocked from attending a match by Qatari officials because he wore a shirt with a rainbow design on it. He had also written highly critical posts about the organizers of the tournament, citing their record of alleged human-rights abuses. In the immediate aftermath of Wahl’s death, his brother Eric said in an Instagram video that he believed there was foul play involved, pointing to death threats Wahl had received. In recent days, Eric Wahl backed away from those claims.
Gounder said that CPR and other forms of aid likely wouldn’t have saved her husband, and quickly shut down other theories that have been rampant online.
“His death was unrelated to COVID. His death was unrelated to vaccination status. There was nothing nefarious about his death,” she said.
Wahl was likely the most esteemed soccer journalist in America, having covered the rise of the sport in the U.S. for 20 years, in Sports Illustrated and then independently. He also wrote widely about other sports during his long tenure, including a famous 2002 profile of a teenage LeBron James.