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Family of college football player sues the university for wrongful death

The family of a former college football player has filed a wrongful death suit against the university he played for, the university’s football coach and the NCAA. The 20-year-old college football player attended and played for Mississippi. He collapsed during the first day of offseason workouts on February 19, 2010. The young man later died at a hospital in Oxford, Mississippi.

According to the autopsy, the young man died from complications caused by sickle cell trait. Sickle cell is usually asymptomatic but symptoms can be provoked after intense physical activity. The university had knowledge the 20-year-old had sickle cell trait. The NCAA requires sickle cell testing for all Division I college athletes but testing positive for the trait does not prevent a player from participating in their sport.

The lawsuit claims that the first day of football workouts was “carelessly and recklessly excessive.” The lawsuit also alleges that the 20-year-old college football player was not informed of his condition. Since he was not informed that he had sickle cell trait, the lawsuit argues the young man did not receive adequate medical attention when the workout became difficult and was encouraged to continue with the training.

The 20-year-old college student and football player died within hours of the early morning football workout. About eight percent of African-Americans have sickle cell. A prior wrongful death case in 2006 involving sickle cell trait pushed the NCAA to require mandatory testing. The family’s lawyer says efforts needs to go beyond the first step of mandatory testing.

Source: The Washington Post, “Family of former Mississippi football player files wrongful death lawsuit against Ole Miss,” 5/17/11

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