Autopsy shows Urso died of heart defect

KirkUrso2 (Getty)


The sudden and tragic death of Columbus Crew midfielder Kirk Urso last month was caused by a genetic heart defect.

That determination was revealed on Friday after details of Urso's autopsy were released. The announcement provides some closure after the shocking passing of a young player so beloved in the American soccer community.

Urso died of cardiac arrest on Aug. 5th in Columbus after losing consciousness at a local bar. According to the coroner, Urso died of arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy, a rare genetic condition that Urso was unaware of.

The coroner put to rest any notion that Urso's death was somehow tied to the fact he was out drinking at a Columbus bar.

“My job is to determine the major cause of death,” Franklin County coroner Jan Gorniak told the Columbus Dispatch. “That blood-alcohol did not contribute to his cause of death.”

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16 Responses to Autopsy shows Urso died of heart defect

  1. Eugene says:

    Sports doctors need to do a much, much better job of understanding athletes’ hearts, and what happens to them under stress. Detailed analysis. Too many young athletes have died because of being unaware of heart conditions. The docs really need to run the rule over the heart in particularly, structurally and electrically.

  2. Illmatic74 says:

    I remember Outside the Lines did a story about the condition years ago when an NFL played died from it. It is very difficult to detect and athletes are the ones who are more susceptible to it.

  3. ChrisTheLSUTiger says:

    This is a genetic disease that affects the way the cells in the heart stay “glued” together. The bonds stop working and the heart cannot beat as well and eventually fails. I’m not sure if there is a real easy, traditional cardiac test for this (ie EKG), but maybe it can be detected through a genetic test.

  4. bml says:

    FIFA and the insurance companies that insure MLS players require ECG/EKG screening to look for cardiac issues. I think this specific condition can be identified in about 80% of the cases. Otherwise the diagnosis is more complex and difficult. It’s important to remember that Medicine is not a perfect science.

  5. Roy says:

    A horrible event serves as a good reminder to those who assumed the cause was drugs and stated so online. Too many people assume a young person’s death is because of their own actions and then decide to plaster it in postings as if they know the deceased.

  6. jd says:

    It’s unfortunate that he had such a rare genetic mutation that offers no clue ahead of taking a life. It’s also interesting that sport had nothing to do with his demise.

    You mention that sports doctors need to do a “much, much better job of understanding athletes’ hearts”, though what you’ve implied in this is that sports doctors, including the cardiologists who were involved, can somehow prevent a guy who’s having a few drinks from having a sudden cardiac related death. Life is simply cruel sometimes, despite the outstanding care one has access to.

  7. jd says:

    Those NFL players had a more common condition. The one that claimed Urso is harder to find and more rare.

  8. Murph says:

    New imaging techniques may one-day offer ARVC patients an early warning but no treatment other than transplantation seems to be on the horizon. But with genetic diseases, the promise of RNAi can always be argued. A post transplant pathologic diagnosis of ARVC is made initially on finding “fibrofatty replacement” on histologic sections of the recipient’s explanted heart. I can envision New Mass Spec techniques that could be employed to detect very specific “biomarkers” related to intracelular decay or stress – but the patient would still be left with a daunting diagnosis. In the end, one might chose to exit this world with ones favorite cold beverage in hand – and with that, let us all raise our glasses and toast Kirk on a life well lived!

  9. ChrisTheLSUTiger says:

    I’m pretty sure him being a professional athlete put more stress on his heart and accelerated the pace of his condition.

  10. shake says:

    I commented soon after his death saying it was either an undetected heart defect or drug use that killed him.

    Simply put, those are the only 2 things that ever really cause these sort of things. It’s not unreasonable to assume drugs could have done it, it doesn’t say anything about the person’s character, only that they suffered from a disease like anyone else.

  11. Spencer says:

    as people have said this is genetic. The only way to really know someone has it is to look under the cardiac muscle on a microscope. Unfortunately the first symptom that about 50% of people who have this get is a fatal heart attack.

  12. divers suck says:

    Would it have made a difference Eugene? He was at a bar, not even playing soccer. He had a genetic defect of his heart. Where in the world is there a prevention for that? Soccer player or not, it was likely to happen and was indeed tragic.

  13. Dennis says:

    Well, I am 66 and I do have arrhythmogenic right ventricular displacia ARVD (enlarged right ventrical that cause irregular heartbeats). In my case it was caused by myocarditis, probably from a virus. It has resulted in my suffering from ventricular tachycardia (premature ventricular contractions at a sustained high rate) as much as 220 beats per minute. I am fortunate in that I have never lost consciousness and the tachycardia has never converted to fibrillation (or I would not be typing this). The first symptoms were when I was 34, but it was 6 years before the cause of my brief episodes of dizziness were diagnosed, then only because I stayed in V-tach for a few hours and went to the ER where I was cardioverted. Drugs were not effective, a cardiac ablation when I was 50, insertion of an implantable cardiac defribrillator(ICD), slightly better drugs and further ablations and I am still functioning pretty well. Before I was 40, I was a competitive distance runner, while I no longer race, I still jog, lift weights and play soccer (at a pretty low level) and generally try not to let it limit me, but must admit that sometimes a get a bit leery of pushing myself too much. Basically the scar tissue in the enlarged RV provides additional electrical pathways that can form a loop in the ventrical and cause it to contract repeatedly at a high rate before it fills with blood making it a less effective pump. There is on You tube a video of a professional Belgium soccer player with an ICD who collapsed on the field , got shocked and survived, but I’m sure the coach did sub him out.

  14. Dennis says:

    Beta blocker drugs, Implantable defibrillators and cardiac ablations are the present techniques used to treat this. None of them are perfect, but they do allow many to continue to live long lives (see my post below for my own history with this).

  15. Dennis says:

    see link to
    for the players collapse and revival

  16. Roy says:

    There were people in various forums more confident and limiting than yourself with their suggestions. Some people were confident, which is just sad.