Florida HS Soccer Star Dies After Second Collapse

PHOTO: Soccer Star DeathPlayCourtesy: The Gainesville Sun/Gainesville.com
WATCH Preventing High School Athlete Deaths

A high school soccer star in Florida died Wednesday after collapsing two days before at track practice, and two weeks after doctors cleared her to return from a previous collapse, her parents said.

Sara Landauer, 17, was a standout in soccer and track and popular off the field at Eastside High School in Gainseville, people who knew her said.

"Not just a phenomenal athlete but a tremendous asset to the community," track coach Adrien Taylor said. "A young lady that inspired many young athletes. Not just athletes but many young people in general."

The high school junior died Wednesday morning in the hospital. After her collapse at practice, bystanders performed CPR and used a defibrillator to resuscitate her.

Sara had just finished practicing a 200-meter sprint when she fell unconscious.

Her parents have said they told doctors that Sara had recently had a cold but, beyond that, seemed perfectly healthy. It's unclear what caused her to collapse two weeks ago but doctors cleared her a few days later, after a battery of tests, to return to the field.

Roger Dearing, executive director of the Florida High School Athletic Association, told the Gainseville Sun, "We require medical clearance. If that happens, and the parents are fine with it, we really don't have the authority to say she can't continue."

The news of her death came a day after the funeral for 16-year-old basketball star Wes Leonard and the recent death of Matthew Hammerdorfer, a 17-year-old boy who collapsed and died from cardiac arrest during a rugby game in Colorado.

Wes' Fennville, Mich., team played their second game without him on the court Monday.

Wes was later found to have had an enlarged heart, but Sara's cause of death is still unknown.

At Eastside High School, students are struggling to make sense of the loss of one of their own.

"We've encouraged the teachers to try and stick to routines as much as possible because kids are dealing with an emotionally difficult time, to have that structure is important and so we've had school go on as usual but we've been flexible to give kids a chance to talk about their emotions," school principal Jeff Charbonett said.

Observable Symptoms

Dr. Merle Myerson, a cardiologist specializing in prevention and sports medicine, told "Good Morning America," "It's hard to go back and second guess but certainly we would hope she had a thorough evaluation by a qualified health-care provider, including a history, physical examination, hopefully an electrocardiogram and maybe even an ultra sound of her heart.

"In most cases such as this, it's usually a cardiac cause. Either an abnormality in the structure of the heart, or an irregular heart rhythm," Myerson added.

But there are certain symptoms, including undue shortness of breath, irregular heart beat or palpitations, feeling light-headed or dizzy and chest discomfort.

"Fortunately, this is an uncommon event," Myerson said. "But when you do have some of those symptoms, go the next step. Have the child refrain from activity until they can be evaluated."

Many doctors say the star athletes are inclined to push themselves further and can be at greater risk.

"We hear about the star athletes," Myerson said, "but, unfortunately, too this can apply to the athletes on the bench and the starting lineup."