The death of a University of Michigan wrestler on Dec. 9 was caused by excessive training while trying to lose too much weight too fast, according to autopsy results released Monday.
Jeff Reese, 21, was engaged in a 2-hour workout in a 92-degree room dressed in a rubberized wet suit when he collapsed in Ann Arbor and later died, said Dr. Bader Cassin, chief Washtenaw County medical examiner.
Reese, a junior from Wellsburg, N.Y., began a program a “couple of days” prior to his death to shed 17 pounds so he could wrestle at 150 pounds, Cassin said.
“He probably got very close, if not to, his goal weight,” he said. “Unfortunately, it cost him his life.”
Reese’s death was caused by habdomyolysis - a cellular breakdown of skeletal muscle under conditions of excessive exercise, which, combined with dehydration, resulted in kidney failure and heart malfunction.
When Reese’s muscle mass broke down during his workout, it flooded his bloodstream with acids that caused his kidneys to shut down, Cassin said.
“When done to excess, weight loss can in fact endanger a life,” Cassin said Monday. “In some exercise regimens, there is something akin to personal torture.”
Preliminary blood screens found no drugs or alcohol. Tests are being conducted to determine if Reese was using steroids. Cassin said he does not believe he was.
Reese was in excellent physical shape and there were no injuries or signs of disease that could have contributed to the death, Cassin said.
It was the third death in six weeks of a college wrestler undergoing a rapid weight-reduction program. A 22-year-old wrestler at Wisconsin-La Crosse, who collapsed and died last month, was also wearing a rubber suit to help with his weight-loss effort during a 4-hour workout.
The NCAA said it will review weight loss practices.