On the day after Mike Reynolds died of a massive stroke, members of the Baltimore Blast organization were trying to come to terms with the sudden death of a talented athlete just reaching the peak of his professional career.
A detailed description of why Reynolds died at age 27 won't be available, because family members requested no autopsy be performed. Escorted by his grieving parents, Lynn and Lincoln Reynolds, and his financee, Claudia Franke, Reynolds' body was flown to his home in Mississauga, Ontario, yesterday. Funeral services will be held there Saturday.
Reynolds, who played four years with the Blast, collapsed in Saturday afternoon's 99-degree heat during a soccer clinic for inmates at the Jessup Pre-Release Center. On Sunday morning, Reynolds was alert and aware of what happened, but his condition worsened that afternoon, and that night he went into a coma. He died at 3:30 p.m. Monday at St. Agnes Hospital.
Many of Reynolds' Blast teammates, as well as those who played with him at George Mason University and on the Washington Stars of the American Soccer League, learned of his death Monday evening. More than 60 people attended a memorial service held in the hospital's chapel later that night.
"I found out about the accident on Sunday, and [Reynolds' death] was something that I just didn't consider," said Blast goalkeeper Scott Manning yesterday. "Even though it was a terrible thing, I just felt that Mike would pull through."
Although Reynolds had severe hypertension that forced him to miss a season three years ago, Blast team physician Dr. Larry Gallagher said he did not believe the condition played a factor in his death. Medicine prescribed by a Toronto doctor helped reduce Reynolds' blood pressure, enabling him to pass a Blast physical.
"We checked his blood pressure many times after he came back and we were pleased with the results," Gallagher said. "He was HTC always monitored."
Asked whether it was a possible that Reynolds could have stopped using his medication, Gallagher answered: "I don't think so. Mikewas very concerned about a problem he thought was serious."
However, two area medical experts said that, even with medication, those who suffer from hypertension are still at risk of a stroke.
"When you have high blood pressure that means damage to the blood vessels," said Dr. Thomas R. Price, professor of neurology at the University of Maryland Medical Center. "Untreated, the risk is great. With medication you can cut the stroke risk in half, which is not the same as cutting out all strokes."
Price, currently a member of a team conducting a long-term study of strokes suffered by young people, said that strenuous physical activity is not the only cause of elevated blood pressure.
"Bridge players will see their pressure go up during tournaments, and even public speaking puts the pressure up," Price said. "I don't think there is any evidence that athletics is bad for you.
"The biggest problem is that people get their blood pressure under control and stop taking their medicine," he added. "If we were to ask a group of stroke victims, I would say that half wind up not taking their medicine."
Dr. Elijah Saunders, a University of Maryland Medical Center staff member and noted author on high blood pressure and blacks, said that athletes with hypertension should be evaluated before continuing to play.
"With some people when they exercise, it could be very catastrophic," Saunders said. "There's a risk, and it's hard in a young person to quantitate what the risk is. Athletes are a tough group -- they want to play. Sometimes it's hard to get the athletes, the coaches and the parents to realize the seriousness."
Saunders said sometimes a stroke is caused by a congenial malformation of the brain, also known as an aneurysm. "It's a possibility because you don't see many people have strokes, even with high blood pressure, at that age," Saunders said of Reynolds. "Unfortunately, you can't diagnose an aneurysm of the brain because the symptoms are often fatal."
Whether that caused the death of Reynolds -- whose heart and other organs were donated -- is the last thing on the minds of members of the Blast. They're still trying to recover from the loss of a teammate and friend.
"I played with Michael since he broke in as a rookie, and losing a good friend is a hard thing to deal with," Manning said. "Everyone has to deal with it the best they can. Sometimes it takes a long time, but you have to go on."