Authorities are releasing more information about the 20-year-old Chadron State College football player who died during an August 11 practice.
An autopsy completed by Forensic Pathologist Dr. Pete Schilke at Regional West Medical Center and an in-depth review of medical records and history have revealed that Eric Goll died as a result of exercise-related sudden death associated with sickle cell trait with a contributing condition of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
Goll suffered from fatigue and cramping and eventually collapsed following conditioning on the first day of practice at Chadron State College. EMS was called and CPR was initiated. He was transported to Chadron Community Hospital, where despite resuscitative efforts, he was pronounced dead at 12:30 pm.
Sickle cell trait affects approximately 8% of the African American population. Exercise related collapse associated with SCT is a rare but serious complication that can result in sudden death. It has been recognized in athletes during strenuous exercise which causes localized hypoxia resulting in intravascular sickling of the red blood cells leading to vascular occlusion and organ and tissue damage. This can lead to rhabdomyolysis, myocardial ischemia, arrhythmias and sudden death. The autopsy revealed an enlarged 700 gram heart with changes of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which was a contributing factor in Goll’s death.
Postmortem testing shows Hemoglobin S (sickle cell trait) in Eric’s blood sample. Review of his medical records shows that he previously tested positive for sickle cell trait on 7/29/2015 in a physical before football participation at Florida A&M University.
Excessive change in altitude of as little as 2000-2500 feet can be a contributing factor to exercise related collapse associated with SCT. Goll had recently traveled from Weatherford, Texas, elevation 1,053 feet, to Chadron to participate in school and football. Chadron, NE has an elevation of 3,379 feet. This 2,326 foot difference is also considered a contributing factor in Goll’s death.
Exercise collapse associated with SCT and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy can both be causes of sudden death in athletes. Eric’s symptoms, circumstances of his activity that day, autopsy results and medical history are most consistent with sudden death associated with SCT rather than hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.