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Coroner: Ark. football player had heart condition

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 2 2015 10:57 p.m. MDT

This photo taken Sept. 3, 2011 shows Arkansas tight end Garrett Uekman (88) huddling with the team during warm ups before the start of an NCAA college football game against Missouri State in Fayetteville, Ark. Uekman was pronounced dead Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011, at Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville, Ark., after Uekman was found unconscious and unresponsive in his dorm room on campus at approximately 11:15 a.m. The cause of death has not been determined.  (April L. Brown, Associated Press) This photo taken Sept. 3, 2011 shows Arkansas tight end Garrett Uekman (88) huddling with the team during warm ups before the start of an NCAA college football game against Missouri State in Fayetteville, Ark. Uekman was pronounced dead Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011, at Washington Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville, Ark., after Uekman was found unconscious and unresponsive in his dorm room on campus at approximately 11:15 a.m. The cause of death has not been determined. (April L. Brown, Associated Press)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A heart condition that was likely 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. Long didn't immediately respond to interview requests on Tuesday.

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.

FILE - In this Sept. 10, 2011, file photo, Arkansas tight end Garrett Uekman greets fans after an NCAA college football game against New Mexico in Little Rock, Ark. The Washington County coroner Roger Morris said in a statement Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2011, a heart condition that likely was undiagnosed killed the Uekman, who died after being found unconscious in his dorm room over the weekend.  (Danny Johnston, File, Associated Press) FILE - In this Sept. 10, 2011, file photo, Arkansas tight end Garrett Uekman greets fans after an NCAA college football game against New Mexico in Little Rock, Ark. The Washington County coroner Roger Morris said in a statement Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2011, a heart condition that likely was undiagnosed killed the Uekman, who died after being found unconscious in his dorm room over the weekend. (Danny Johnston, File, Associated Press)

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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