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Student-Athlete Dies During Grueling Practice

Kelly Anthony, Esq. | Deputy General Counsel

A University of Central Florida football student?athlete with sickle cell trait died after collapsing to the ground during practice. On the day of the student-athlete's death, the team allegedly endured a particularly grueling practice, described as punishment in which neither water nor trainers were readily available. The student-athlete was observed having difficulty breathing, falling to the ground, and eventually becoming incoherent before emergency personnel were called. The athlete died soon thereafter. The university's athletic association had a policy in place for mandatory screening for sickle cell trait in African-American athletes, to which the student-athlete tested positive. Six months after the initial screening, the head athletic director for the university noticed the student-athlete did not have the required sickle cell screening test result in his sports medicine file. The athletic director instructed the student-athlete to obtain another laboratory screening, and the results were again positive. Although the results should have been sent to the university's sports medicine department, they were not provided to the athlete or the sports medicine department until after his death. The university's policies and procedures for athletes with positive sickle cell trait results proscribed a number of notifications, accommodations and procedures that must be disseminated and taken. Plaintiff asserted that the university was negligent for failing to inform the student-athlete of his positive test results; failing to inform team personnel of the positive test results; failing to provide appropriate counseling to the student-athlete regarding the risks, precautions and symptoms relating to sickle cell trait; failing to inform, counsel or educate team personnel regarding the risks, precautions and symptoms to avoid a sickling collapse; failing to educate the personnel about exercise modification, intervention and emergency management for an athlete with sickle cell trait; and failing to follow appropriate procedures and timely respond when the student-athlete showed signs and symptoms of physical distress during the conditioning session.

Verdict: $10,000,000

Enock Plancher, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Ereck Michael Plancher, II, Deceased v. UCF Athletics Association, Inc.