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Enlarged heart cited in Collier's autopsy

DECATUR, Ga. — Atlanta Hawks center Jason Collier died from a sudden heart rhythm disturbance caused by an abnormally enlarged heart, an autopsy showed.

The state's chief medical examiner, Dr. Kris Sperry, said Tuesday his testing showed that electrocardiograms administered to Collier in 2003 and this year showed "some indication of electrical abnormalities."

"Looking at them now, and in retrospect in knowing what's going on with his heart, the abnormalities may have been associated with what we found in examining his heart," Sperry said.

He said that he had no evidence that the 28-year-old Collier was informed there was anything wrong with his heart. Collier's wife said he had never been told of a reason for concern, Sperry said.

Collier's father, Jeff, had previously told The Associated Press that his son did not have any diagnosed health problems before his death besides past injuries to his knees. Reached at his Springfield, Ohio, home on Tuesday evening, Jeff Collier said he's disappointed that the state released its conclusions without first notifying him of the findings.

"I'm telling you I don't know anything about this," Collier said.

The 7-foot Collier, who played at Georgia Tech, was with the Hawks for two years after spending three years with the Houston Rockets. He died after having trouble breathing in his suburban Atlanta home.

Sperry indicated that the family has concerns about the medical tests in 2003 and 2005 and "when we get all the findings back I think the family will have some of those examined in closer detail, based upon the results."

He said tissue and blood samples had been sent to the Mayo Clinic and Harvard Medical School for further tests to determine whether Collier had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a congenital defect that can lead to an enlarged heart.

Sperry did not say that the Hawks or Rockets were negligent in clearing Collier to play in the NBA.

He said an enlarged heart can be very difficult to detect, especially due to Collier's size. But he said the player's heart "was above the accepted limits, even for a man of his size."

He said the organ was about one and a half times the size it should have been.

"We have the unfortunate advantage of taking the heart out and weighing it," Sperry said.

Sperry also said that the electrical abnormalities could have been a reason for further testing.

"If it were me, I would have wanted more studies done to clarify what those abnormalities meant in light of the fact Jason was an athlete," he said.

The autopsy was conducted by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which performs all Forsyth County autopsies, GBI spokesman John Bankhead said.

The Hawks left Atlanta on Tuesday for Oakland, where they open their season Wednesday night against the Golden State Warriors.

The players are wearing black shoulder patches on their uniforms to honor Collier, who was a part-time starter. He began his college career at Indiana before transferring to Georgia Tech.

The Hawks will leave Collier's uniform in his locker through the season.


Associated Press Writer Harry R. Weber in Atlanta contributed to this report