Preseason Football death case settled for Missouri football player

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The University of Missouri has reached a settlement in a wrongful-death lawsuit filed by the family of a former football linebacker who collapsed on the field during a 2005 preseason workout according to the AP. The Friday USA Today Sports section reports The Circuit Court judge approved the $2 million settlement that ended a 3-year lawsuit over the collapse and death of the 19-year-old college athlete. (USA Today, 3/13/09) The settlement also requires the University to fund a $250,000 scholarship in the deceased football player Aaron O’Neal’s name.

The lawsuit alleged that school employees failed to take medical precautions required by O’Neal’s carrying of the sickle cell trait. The hereditary condition has been linked to heat stroke and exercise-induced collapse. O’Neal, who was 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, started to struggle with conditioning drills about 45 minutes into the hourlong workout on July 12, 2005. Players wore shorts, T-shirts and cleats but no helmets or pads.

The O’Neal family lawsuit accused the Missouri coach, athletic director, team medical director and 11 trainers and strength coaches of failing to recognize signs of medical distress they say could have prevented O’Neal’s death. The former County medical examiner cited viral meningitis as the cause of death. But the chairman of the university’s pathology department and several outside experts suggested the sickle cell trait contributed. See tomorrow’s post regarding the recommendation by the National Athletic Trainer’s Association for sickle cell screening.

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