Charlotte, N.C. — NFL great Reggie White might have died because of a respiratory disease combined with other health problems, a preliminary autopsy report said Monday.
White most likely had a condition that affected the amount of air his lungs could hold, resulting in "fatal cardiac arrhythmia," said Dr. Mike Sullivan, the medical examiner for Mecklenburg County and a forensic pathologist.
The report issued by Sullivan's office also said sleep apnea could have been a factor.
The report is a preliminary one; determining a final cause of death could take up to three months, Sullivan's office said.
White died Sunday at Presbyterian Hospital in Huntersville after being taken there from his home in nearby Cornelius. His wife, Sara, called 911.
White had the disease, known as sarcoidosis, for years, family spokesman Keith Johnson said Sunday. He described it as a respiratory ailment that affected his sleep.
On its Web site, the American Lung Assn. describes sarcoidosis as a disease characterized by the presence of small areas of inflamed cells that can attack any organ of the body but is most frequently found in the lungs.
Sleep apnea causes people to stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep.