Coroner: Ark. player had heart issue

Associated Press  |  Last updated November 20, 2011
A heart condition that likely was undiagnosed killed the University of Arkansas football player who was found unconscious in his dorm room over the weekend, a coroner said Tuesday. Washington County coroner Roger Morris said that to the best of his knowledge, Garrett Uekman's condition, called cardiomyopathy, was not previously detected. In the condition, the heart becomes enlarged. Uekman, a 19-year-old redshirt freshman tight end, was last seen by his roommate playing video games Sunday morning. He was found unresponsive in his dorm room an hour later and was in cardiac arrest by the time emergency services personnel arrived. He was pronounced dead shortly after noon. Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long has said the university wasn't aware of any pre-existing medical condition for Uekman. A university spokesman declined comment because school officials hadn't yet seen the written report. Uekman's toxicology report came back with no indications of improper drug use, Morris said. He said the manner of death was natural. University police have said there were no suspicious circumstances about Uekman's death. Weekend funeral services will be held in Little Rock. There are several types of cardiomyopathy, though it wasn't clear which type Uekman suffered from, Morris said. One kind, called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, thickens the heart and makes it harder to pump blood, and is often the culprit when young athletes suddenly collapse and die. Symptoms can include an irregular heartbeat and shortness of breath. In many cases, it goes undetected. ''This young man may have not shown any signs (being) in that great of physical shape,'' Morris said. Several thousand mourners gathered in Fayetteville on Monday for a candlelight vigil to remember Uekman. His picture remained on the videoboard at the Bud Walton Arena throughout the ceremony, and those in attendance wore stickers that had black ribbons wrapped in red with a white ''88'' on them, in honor of Uekman's number. The No. 3 Razorbacks (10-1, 6-1 Southeastern Conference) face No. 1 LSU (11-0, 7-0) in Baton Rouge, La., on Friday.
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