The death of Baltimore-area high school basketball star Paul Kinney still is a mystery, and will remain so for at least the next five weeks, according to a Baltimore County medical examiner.
Kinney was playing for Calvert Hall College, a Towson prep school, when he collapsed during a preseason game last Saturday at Parkville High School. Despite efforts to revive him at courtside, the 18-year-old senior died without regaining consciousness Monday at St. Joseph's Hospital in Towson.
An autopsy was performed but the results were inconclusive. Dr. Charles O'Donnell, the deputy state medical examiner assigned to Baltimore County, said further tests are necessary and the results won't be made known "for at least five or six weeks."
O'Donnell said that Kinney died a "heart death" and ruled out a stroke. But O'Donnell refused to speculate on anything specific.
"I don't make educated guesses when I can get scientific fact," O'Donnell said. "You've got to have scientific fact before you can make a statement. That's why you have an autopsy. To give an opinion when you have slides in the making defeats the purpose."
No Calvert Hall player underwent stress tests that might detect a weakness in the heart muscle. "Bu we've talked about it" since Kinney's death, Calvert Hall Coach Mark Amatucci said. "We've tried to think of what we can do for better evaluation."
Dr. Barry Manon of the National Institutes of Health said he has studied 29 cases of sudden death among athletes. The exact causes of death, he said, often are hard to detect.
"Sometimes you can look at the sections of the heart and not see it (the flaw)," Manon said. "There's no structural thing to point to."
Manon ironically was in New York attending a symposium partially titled "The Athlete: Risks of Injury and Sudden Death."
Kinney, a 6-foot-6, 185-pound forward, collapsed during a first-quarter timeout, just as he was to leave the game for a break.
"I could see that he was tired. I was going to substitute for him," Amatucci said. "He had a stamina problem like a lot of big guys. I knew, from the three years I had watched him."
Amatucci said all appeared normal as play resumed. "Then I heard a thud," he said. "He had slipped off the bench. I knew he was in trouble. I thought he was hyperventilating."
Within "five to 10 seconds," Amatucci said, the Calvert Hall lacrosse coach, Mike Thomas, came from the stands to apply mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Amatucci administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Then Charles Lyons Jr., a Parkville player, took over the CPR while his father, a physician, took over the mouth-to-mouth.
Paramedics arrived after 20 minutes and administered electric shock, adrenaline and oxygen. Kinney's pulse, which had stopped, was revived, but he never regained consciousness.
Kinney was the brother of Vince Kinney, a former University of Maruyland football star who played professionally with the Denver Broncos before being released during the preseason.
Amatucci said 40 colleges had written to Kinney, although one scout said Kinney probably would have been able to play only "at a lower-level program."
"He was just starting to learn to play," Amatucci said. "He was raw as a sophomore and started to come on last year (averaging 13 points and 10 rebounds a game). He still hadn't completely learned the game yet, but he worked real hard last summer and this year."
Calvert Hall was ranked 13th nationally in the preseason by Basketball Weekly magazine after a 26-2 record last year.