USA Today has reported “the parents of a Slippery Rock (Pa.) University basketball player who died two years ago after collapsing during an intense practice have sued the school and the NCAA.” Jack Hill, Jr., of Roselle, New Jersey, was a senior on the basketball team at Slippery Rock.
According to the reports, the team was engaged in conditioning drills during a Friday night practice in September 2011. While Hill was running, he collapsed and later died. “He just looked out of it and the next thing we know, he collapsed. So, we tried everything we could that we knew,” Tommy Kelly said.
The lawsuit filed by Hill’s parents alleges that the NCAA “began screening Division I players for sickle cell in 2010, but didn’t require that of Division II players until 2012,” with Slippery Rock being a Division II school (testing on Division III athletes just began this year). While Hill as given a physical examination in order to play basketball, he was never screened for sickle cell trait or sickle cell anemia – something the lawsuit says could have been revealed with a simple blood test.
A leading group of doctors are still arguing that the NCAA is not doing the right test or enough to prevent tragic deaths like Hill’s. In a story from NPR, the doctors say, “screening without intervention to help athletes cope is wrong. […] So is screening without counseling, because it can lead to misinformation.” One option discussed is following a model buy the U.S. Army, including: “paying attention to heat acclimatization, proper hydration and rest periods.”
Sickle cell deaths in NCAA have been a rising concern as athletes, coaches, and the game is pushed to new levels of intensity. You will remember the shocking death that hit home in Central Florida, in 2008 when Ereck Plancher, a University of Central Florida football player collapsed at practice due to complications of sickle cell trait. In Mr. Plancher’s case, a jury returned a verdict in favor of his parents for $10 million, which was recently reduced to $200,000, due to the statutory cap on damages.
We will keep a watch on this case to see how holding academic institutions liable for the health and wellness of their student-athletes continues to play out. If you have a child or loved one that may have collapsed or been injured due to sickle cell and strenuous physical activity, please give us a call to discuss your potential claim.
Wooten Kimbrough, P.A. Florida Medical Malpractice Attorneys