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Lawsuit Against UM Could Be A Groundbreaker

Yesterday, the family of deceased Ole Miss football player Bennie Abram announced that the school was one of 28 defendants the family was suing in connection to their son’s death.  The family claims that UM did not follow guidelines for how to handle players who have been diagnosed with sickle cell trait.

According to Kyle Veazey of The Jackson Clarion-Ledger, an attorney for the school said yesterday that UM had not yet been served with the complaint.  However, Lee Tyner did say: “We have carefully reviewed the allegations contained in (the Abrams’ attorneys’) notice letters, and we are prepared to defend the good work of our coaches and the care provided by our medical team.”

Abram died after a workout on February 19th, 2010.  The New York Times has reported that at least eight college football players with sickle cell trait have died after training sessions since 2000.

The family claims that UM tested their son for the trait and found it, but there is no evidence that the school informed their son of those findings.

According to the family’s attorneys, Abram was “pushed to continue” after collapsing during a “carelessly and recklessly excessive” workout.  The complaint also states that Abram collapsed a second time and was simply sent to the sidelines.  He was not taken to the hospital until the entire team completed all of its drills.”

Not only might this complaint become a landmark case with regards to sickle cell trait in athletes, but it could also open the door — and should open the door — to coaches taking a more serious approach to any type of player collapse.

Football is a tough game and players are routinely pushed to work through pain, work through nausea and work — unfortunately — through the occasional collapse.  That has become a part of the football culture on too many practice fields across America.  Depending on the outcome of this case — or perhaps simply the press it generates — more schools might institute hard and fast “if you collapse, you go to the hospital” policies. 

That would certainly be a step in the right direction.  When a player’s safety is in question, it’s always better to err on the side of caution.

That, however, is not to say that the claims made by the Abrams’ family regarding UM’s actions are true.  But as a football fan, you also know that such claims do not sound the least bit shocking.

As for Ole Miss, athletic director Pete Boone released this statement:

Bennie’s death was a tragedy.  Because the care and well-being of our student-athletes is paramount, when we received notice several weeks ago that the family may file a lawsuit, the University asked the Abram’s lawayer for any information that might help us provide better care for our student-athletes.  But Mr. Egdorf has refused to do so.  Although we had not seen the complaint yet, we have carefully reviewed the facts of the tragic loss and the assertions in Mr. Egdorf’s notice letters.  All of the actions taken by our medical professionals, athletics trainers, and coaches met or exceeded best practices.

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