LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Former NFL offensive lineman Mitch Petrus died Thursday night in Arkansas due to heatstroke, officials said. The former Super Bowl champion was 32 years old.
Petrus fell ill Thursday evening after working outside at his parents’ shop in Lonoke County, Pulaski County Coroner Gerone Hobbs said. He was taken to Baptist Health Medical Center in North Little Rock just before 9 p.m. and was pronounced dead just before midnight, Hobbs said.
Temperatures in the area reached 92 degrees during the day, and a heat advisory was in effect in Arkansas when Petrus became ill. When the body’s temperature rises faster than it can cool down, “heatstroke” occurs, potentially damaging the brain and other vital organs.
Petrus’ mother told the coroner that her son had been drinking water while working outside but did not get enough electrolytes. Petrus did not appear to have any pre-existing conditions, Hobbs said.
Son of Sue and Phil Petrus, the former offensive lineman lived in Carlisle, Arkansas, according to the New York Giants website. Petrus played for Carlisle High School and then for the Hogs, the University of Arkansas Razorbacks football team, where he graduated in 2009 with a degree in agricultural business.
He contributed to the New York Giants’ nail-biting Super Bowl defeat of the New England Patriots, 21-17, in February 2012. Petrus also played for the Tennessee Titans and the Patriots before retiring from the NFL in 2013.
Suggesting that he could have made “a nice living in the Ultimate Fight Championship circuit,” the Giants’ website noted that Petrus “had to fight for everything he has earned on the football field.”
On Twitter, Petrus described himself as a “bass player for my band Vikings of the North Atlantic” and said he served as an assistant to state Sen. Jonathan Dismang during the Legislature’s 2018 session.
Reactions to Petrus’ death included warnings about heatstroke, which is potentially fatal.
In addition to a high body temperature, warning signs of heat illness include hot, red, dry or damp skin and a fast, strong pulse, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Later symptoms might involve headache, dizziness, nausea, feeling confused and losing consciousness (passing out). Extreme dehydration is also part of the heatstroke equation.
A cascade of physiological events occurs when a patient’s organs begin to shut down, the body is no longer able to regulate blood pressure, and blood does not coagulate. Many patients experience alterations in consciousness.
Treatment is all about rapidly cooling and rehydrating to lower body temperature as quickly as possible. Ice baths, ice packs and fans are all useful.
Generally, people who work outside or exercise a lot are more acclimated to the heat and therefore less likely to succumb to illness. That said, anyone exposed to hot weather for too long can become sick.
Along with becoming acclimated to the weather, a person who wishes to avoid heatstroke can wear loose-fitting clothing while in the sun, drink plenty of water and take it easy during the hottest part of the day.