The New York Times reports that Reggie White, the defensive end who was one of the greatest players in National Football League history, died yesterday at a hospital in Huntersville, N.C. White, who lived in Cornelius, N.C., was 43.
The cause was not immediately known, but White had a respiratory ailment for the past several years, Keith Johnson, a pastor serving as a family spokesman, told The Associated Press.
According to ESPN, Sara White confirmed her husband's death, saying that she believes White died of respiratory failure related to his sleep apnea. An autopsy is to be performed to determine the exact cause of death, which was not immediately known.
Did obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) kill Reggie White? OSA is sleep disorder in which a person has repetitive cessations of breathing during sleep due to obstruction of the upper airways. It can be caused by obesity and/or anatomical abnormalities of the throat. In severe cases, untreated OSA can cardiac arrhythmias, including ventricular tachycardia/fibrillation that can lead to sudden cardiac death (this is very rare). Untreated OSA also increases the risk of coronary artery disease, probably through its effects of increasing blood pressure and increasing infammatory factors. The cause of Reggie White's death is not yet known; maybe the autopsy will give further information. If his OSA was not adequately treated, it is possible that it killed him either directly by causing a ventricular arrhythmia or indirectly by increasing the risk of having a heart attack.