Coroner: LaPorte football player died of heart problem - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

Coroner: LaPorte football player died of heart problem

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Jake West (highlighted) in team photo Jake West (highlighted) in team photo
A flagpole outside LaPorte High School has been covered by words of remembrance A flagpole outside LaPorte High School has been covered by words of remembrance

The LaPorte County Coroner says a 17-year-old LaPorte football player died of a heart problem that isn't routinely screened for.

LaPorte city firefighters tell FOX28 they were called to the high school at approximately 5:11 pm Central Time Wednesday. When they got there they found 17-year-old Jake West collapsed on the field. They say he did not have a pulse.

LaPorte County Coroner John Sullivan tells FOX28 crews tried three times to use a defibrillator to restart West's heart. Sullivan says West was taken to IU Health LaPorte Hospital where he was pronounced dead around 6:30 pm. 

Sullivan says an autopsy determined a right ventricular cardiomyopathy caused West's death. It's a form of heart disease. Sullivan says it means the wall of his heart had thinned, the muscle turned to fat. The heart needs muscle to push the blood out. 

The National Institutes of Health says the genetic disease occurs in an estimated 1 in 1000 to 1250 people and may be under-diagnosed because it can be difficult to detect in people with mild or no symptoms. Sullivan says it is not something routinely screened for in a physical. NIH says people with the disease are at risk of sudden death, especially during strenuous exercise. Up to half of all cases appear to run in families.

Superintendent Rande Thorpe said the school followed normal procedures after his collapse, but unfortunately they were not able to revive him. He says the community is suffering a terrible loss.

"We're going through the process of dealing with this loss and helping people deal with the suddenness of this event," Thorpe said. 

The principal made an announcement about West's death this morning. The school is directing any students who need additional assistance dealing with the tragedy are being directed to the high school auditorium. Thorpe said they have counselors and ministerial personnel on hand to help students with the grieving process.

Thorpe also has a few words for parents throughout Michiana today.  "If you have a student, if you have a child, express your love and appreciation for that child," Thorpe said. "Give them a hug today, because you know things can change pretty quickly."

Thorpe says the football team will play their game Friday evening at Merrillville. Merrillville's Athletic Director tells FOX28 News Merrillville players will have West's number on their helmets. There will also be a flag flying with West's number and a moment of silence before the game.

FOX28 will continue to follow this story as it develops and bring you the very latest both on air and online at FOX28.com.

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