MINNEAPOLIS, Minn – Funeral services have been set for Patrick Schoonover, the 14-year-old Eastview hockey player from Eagan who died on the ice.
Doctors also released his cause of death Monday afternoon, pointing to two genetic heart defects that led to an aortic aneurysm.
Dr. Jay Traverse, director of research at Abbott Northwestern Hospital's Minneapolis Heart Institute, said Schoonover had a bicuspid aortic valve that led to the enlargement of the aorta, which is the largest artery in the body. In an email statement, Traverse said the aorta ruptured, causing a fatal aneurysm.
"It is almost always a fatal event due to the large leakage of blood," said Dr. Traverse. "It was not related to Patrick's hockey even though it occurred on the ice."
Dr. Christopher Carter, a pediatric cardiologist at The Children's Heart Center at Children's Hospital in Minneapolis, said cases like Schoonover's are rare, with an estimated 80 cardiac deaths in young athletes across the United States each year. Carter also pointed to a newly published study following young Minnesota athletes from 1993 to 2013. He said only four cardiac deaths were reported over two decades.
"The majority of time these are genetic disease run in families. Unfortunately a family cannot know they have these defects until something like this happens," said Dr. Carter.
He said the medical community is still undecided on whether EKGs would be proper screening tools to rule out heart conditions.
"EKGs can return a lot of false reading that can raise anxiety and lead to a lot of testing that is unnecessary, but we are getting potentially better about doing that all the time," said Dr. Carter.
Schoonover, an 8th grader at Black Hawk Middle School in Eagan, had played with the Eastview Hockey Association since he was small. At a hockey game Sunday night, Schoonover's family spoke about advocating for prevention in memory of their son.
"So we are hoping one of the things come with this, getting kids tested to see if they have heart issues, nothing was there and he didn't complain about chest pains or anything like that," said Mike Schoonover, Patrick's father.
Could a condition as severe as Schoonover's be detected? Dr. Carter tells parents to be aware by talking to your child's pediatrician, watching for symptoms during periods of activity, and listening to your child.
In Schoonover's case, Dr. Carter said it's likely an EKG would not have discovered any clues, as only an echocardiogram or MRI imaging could verify a diagnosis. He recommends immediate family members with conditions like Schoonover's be screened by an echocardiogram. Dr. Traverse also weighed in on further diagnostic tests needed to detect such a condition.
"The answer is many times this condition can be detected on physical exam but it depends on the severity. The abnormal aortic valve will often make certain sounds and murmurs that can be heard with a stethoscope that leads to the patient getting an ultrasound (echocardiogram) of his heart," said Dr. Traverse.
Schoonover's visitation will be 4 p.m.-8 p.m. on Thursday, November 18 at Shepherd of the Valley Church in Apple Valley. Funeral services will be held 11:00 a.m. Friday at Shepherd of the Valley with visitation one hour before as well.
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