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State Medical Examiner Determines Cause of Death for OSU Football Player Fred Thompson
Dr. Karen Gunson
Oregon State Medical Examiner
(971) 673-8200

Oregon State Medical Examiner Dr. Karen Gunson conducted an autopsy Friday morning, December 9, 2011 on Fred Thompson and determined the cause of his death was hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the heart muscle becomes enlarged. During strenuous exercise, the increased thickness of the heart muscle can lead to cardiac arrhythmia.
Thompson, age 19, died Wednesday evening, December 7, after collapsing while playing basketball with football teammates at Dixon Recreation Center on the Oregon State University campus.
Honoring his family's wishes, skin, bone and eye donations were obtained prior to the autopsy. The donations are an opportunity to turn this sad tragedy into improved quality of life for others.
"Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a major cause of death in young athletes who seem completely healthy but die during heavy exercise," said Dr. Gunson. "Some people may not even realize they have the condition until it is found in a routine medical examination."
Some symptoms of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy are:
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness or fainting, especially during exercise
  • Sensation of feeling the heart beat
  • Shortness of breath
Dr. Gunson urged anyone experiencing chest pain, chest pressure, fainting episodes or pain that radiates down the arms or into the neck or jaw should seek medical attention immediately.
About the State Medical Examiner Division:
The purpose of the Medical Examiner Division is to provide direction and support to the state death investigation program. The Medical Examiner manages all aspects of the state medical examiner program and has responsibility for technical supervision of county offices in each of the 36 counties of Oregon. The main activity of the division is to certify the cause and manner of a death requiring investigation within the authority of ORS Chapter 146. This activity includes post mortem examination and alcohol and drug analyses. The division also maintains appropriate records and provides lectures and training on legal medicine and death investigation to medical school physicians and students, attorneys, law students, police officers, emergency medical technicians, and other persons associated with the death investigation system.