La Salle College High School football player Isaiah Turner died of a sickle cell crisis, a spokesperson for the Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s office said Monday.
Turner’s death is listed as a natural death, according to spokesperson James Garrow.
Turner, a 17-year-old senior, collapsed after football practice on Sept. 4. He was rushed to Chestnut Hill Hospital where he was pronounced dead, according to La Salle spokesperson Chris Carabello.
A sickle cell crisis occurs when sickle-shaped red blood cells clump together and block small blood vessels that carry blood to certain organs, muscles and bones, according to UofMHealth.org, the University of Michigan health library.
Turner had complained of a pain or cramp in his leg at the end of practice, according to La Salle coach John Steinmetz.
Kenyatta Turner, Isaiah Turner’s father, said Monday that his son had been diagnosed with “having the [sickle cell] trait as a child but never had any issues throughout his life.”
In a statement on Monday, La Salle president Brother James Butler expressed hope that news of the cause of Turner’s death would offer some solace to those who mourn his loss.
“We at La Salle pray that all in our community who mourn Isaiah’s passing every day, particularly his family, will find a measure of understanding and peace after receiving this report," Butler said. "But a tragedy explained loses none of its sadness, so we continue to pray for healing and acceptance as well, aware that this will be a much longer road still to travel.”
The 6-foot-5, 300-pound Turner played defensive tackle for La Salle in 2019 but was projected to be the team’s left offensive guard this season. When La Salle played its first game on Sept. 18 against Manheim Township, the Explorers took the field with just 10 athletes in a ‘Missing Man’ formation for the first play — leaving open the left guard position in Turner’s honor.
Turner, who lived in the Frankford section of Philadelphia, was a popular student at the school in Wyndmoor, Montgomery County.
Butler said Turner was a “stereotypical gentle giant” who was embraced by the school community. Others referred to Turner’s playful nature and engaging personality.
“I know we’re going to be playing for Isaiah, every single day, every single second,” La Salle lineman Ryan Wills said the day after Turner’s death.
Turner’s funeral services were held Sept. 11 on the La Salle campus. La Salle’s football team has a 3-1 record this season and is ranked No. 3 in Southeastern Pennsylvania by the Inquirer.