JACKSON (AP) – Jackson Prep football player Walker Wilbanks died of a severe loss of sodium that caused water to build up on his brain when he sweated profusely during Friday night’s game, said the physician who treated him.
Dr. Joe Pressler of the University of Mississippi Medical Center said Monday that the sodium-water imbalance caused Wilbanks’ brain to swell, which led to the death of the 17-year-old.
Pressler said the loss of sodium was caused by Wilbanks’ sweating during Prep’s home opener against Oxford, according to The Clarion-Ledger. The junior guard and defensive tackle lost more sodium than was being replenished as he tried to rehydrate on the sidelines. As sodium levels dropped, water shifted from Wilbanks’ blood to his brain.
Wilbanks was taken from the game to Mississippi Baptist Medical Center in Jackson and was later transferred to UMMC. He died at UMMC Monday.
“This was an isolated incident, this wasn’t anything he could’ve prepared differently for. This isn’t anything his coaches could’ve prepared differently for. This is just a really, really bad occurrence,” Pressler said, according to WJTV-TV.
Jackson Prep headmaster Jason Walton said Wilbanks played on the school’s state championship football and baseball teams and was a member of the track team. In a letter to students and parents Monday, Walton described Wilbanks as a “loving, caring, and charismatic young man.”
Funeral arrangements were pending. Prayer vigils were held at Jackson Prep and at other schools and churches the past several days. Grief counselors are working at the private school.