Lung ailment may have led to White's death

The preliminary results of an autopsy show former Packers great Reggie White may have died in part from a respiratory disease that limited the amount of air his lungs could hold.

Dr. Mike Sullivan, a forensic pathologist and the medical examiner for Mecklenburg County, N.C., called the condition "fatal cardiac arrhythmia."

The cardiac arrhythmia, Sullivan said, was linked to sarcoidosis and sleep apnea, the latter of which was named as a possibly cause of death on Sunday. Sarcoidosis limits the amount of air the lungs can hold and can lead to the kind of heart problems that claimed White.

It could take up to three months to come up with the official cause, Sullivan said.

According to the American Lung Association's Web site,, "Sarcoidosis is a disease due to inflammation. The disease can attack any organ of the body in any location. ... Sarcoidosis is most frequently found in the lungs. Pulmonary sarcoidosis can cause loss of lung volume (the amount of air the lungs can hold) and abnormal lung stiffness."

The Web site notes that in "over half the cases, sarcoidosis appears briefly and heals naturally. Sometimes the patient doesn't even know or do anything about it."

According to, more than 70 percent of patients "have regression of their disease within two years of initial onset whether treated medically or not. Some cases progress relentlessly, however, and require long term therapy."

Sleep apnea is a much more common ailment. It causes people to stop breathing while they are sleeping. Most times, it causes the person to wake up — sometimes hundreds of times a night — leading to a bad night of sleep. Sleep apnea is more common in overweight people.

A public viewing for White will be held from 3-8 p.m. Wednesday at A.L. Jinwright Funeral Service in Charlotte, N.C. Details of the private service will not be made public.

Before Monday night's Eagles-Rams game in St. Louis, a video tribute played in honor of White. At least three members of the Rams, stars Marshall Faulk, Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce, wore No. 92 decals on their helmets.

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