Alan Thicke is the cause of the death: Is hockey to blame?

Actor Alan Thicke stands by his star during Canada’s Walk of Fame induction ceremonies in Toronto, September 21, 2013.

(REUTERS/Mark Blinch)

Authorities released actor Alan Thicke the official cause of death on Wednesday, revealing that the 69-year-old suffered a torn aorta and a standard type A aortic dissection. The Canadian native had been playing hockey with his youngest son, when he complained about pain in the chest, in which the question of whether the sport contributed to his demise.

“People can have aortic dissections when they are at rest or when they are active,” Dr. Jean Starr, a vascular surgeon at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, told “They can happen at any moment, at any place, and they can be related to a sudden increase in the blood pressure or chronic high blood pressure.”

Aortic dissections occur when there is a separation in the lining of the aorta, the main artery of the body. Starr noted that they can occur if an individual has a congenital problem such as a connective tissue disorder, but that would probably have been diagnosed earlier in Thicke’s life.

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“Type A aortic dissections are surgical emergencies that require surgery very quickly and have a high percentage of death,” Starr said.

Aortic dissections most commonly occur in men between 40 and 70, and occurs in approximately two of every 10,000 people, according to the U. S. National Library of Medicine. Actor John Ritter died of an aortic aneurysm rupture in 2003 at the age of 54.

“It is not recognized, but it is rare enough that people don’t hear about it until something like this happens,” Starr said.

Aortic dissections are difficult to prevent, she added, but the control of blood pressure is important.

Thicke was a big, old hockey fan. In 1979, he recorded the hockey fight parody song, “Hockey Sock Rock” with former NHL players Ron Duguay, Dave Maloney and Phil Esposito.

“If a boy plays hockey every day of his life, [aortic dissection] was probably not the cause,” Starr said. “If someone is not physically active and all of a sudden is physically active, that would, in theory, their blood pressure and might be the cause.”

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