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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The family of sportswriter Grant Wahl said a ruptured heart vessel caused his death — brought on by an undetected aneurysm.

Wahl, who grew up in Mission, Kansas, died unexpectedly while covering the World Cup last weekend. It was the eighth time the respected sports reporter had covered the World Cup.

Wahl’s resume includes more than 20 years reporting for Sports Illustrated.

Wahl, 48, likely had no idea he was experiencing an aortic aneurysm. Heart specialists say that’s basically an expanding blood vessel that eventually ruptures, and since it’s a primary pathway for blood to the rest of the body when it rips open, it can be catastrophic.

“It’s not as common to have this kind of complication in somebody as young as him,” Dr. Trip Zorn, a cardiac surgeon with the University of Kansas Health System, said on Wednesday.

Zorn was not Wahl’s doctor, but he said it’s possible Wahl could have been genetically predisposed to this.

“It’s not like a little ache or pain that you ignore. It usually takes even the toughest to go directly to the hospital because of how severe the pain was from it,” Zorn said.

Wahl died early Saturday morning, collapsing in the press box at the World Cup in Qatar. Wahl was a graduate of Shawnee Mission Easy High School. He’d complained that he wasn’t feeling well in the days beforehand. It’s the same condition that claimed the life of actor John Ritter in 2003.

Dr. Eric Isselbacher, a cardiologist with Massachusetts General in Boston, said the early moments of having an aneurysm burst are crucial.

Isselbacher said the death rate is about one percent per hour. He told FOX4 patients who catch it early enough have a chance to survive.

“Anyone who has a family history of aortic aneurysm or aortic dissection, there’s a 20% chance they have it as well. They should bring information that to their doctors’ attention,” Isselbacher said.

Heart specialists say high blood pressure and smoking will increase a patient’s chances of aortic aneurysm. Wahl’s widow, Celine Grounder, said there was nothing nefarious about Wahl’s passing, as many speculated at first.

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