Tag:sickle cell trait
Posted on: July 1, 2011 12:51 am
Edited on: July 1, 2011 1:23 am
 

$10 million not enough to replace Ereck Plancher

What's a life worth? A life that could easily have been saved.

Is it worth a coach's job? His AD's? Is it worth the entire Central Florida football program? Absolutely.

Is a life worth $10 million?

No, a life is priceless, precious. But a judgment had to be made Thursday night by a six-person jury that decided that the second-largest university in the country was essentially at fault in the death of Ereck Plancher.

Three years after their son's death and two weeks into the wrongful death lawsuit over it, Enock and Gisele Plancher got "justice." A $5 million award for each doesn't replace him, but it sends a powerful message to anyone in college athletics dumb enough not to be familiar with sickle cell trait by now.

Dumb, because the first documented case occurred at Colorado more than 35 years ago. Dumb, because the NCAA recently began mandatory testing (under certain conditions). Dumb, because even with all that preventable deaths mount.

Dumb, because among the first words from a school spokesman Thursday night was "appeal." The next news out of Central Florida should be the resignation of AD Keith Tribble and coach George O'Leary. If not resignation, then firing. The $10 million represents about a third of the school's athletic budget. 

A kid died on their watch during a damn offseason drill. Everything since then has been botched, bungled and embarrassing. The $10 million award makes it a landmark case in the history of sickle cell trait legal battles. Hopefully, someone other than the Plancher jury is paying attention.


Central Florida could have gotten some cheap, legal advice by simply getting on Google. Florida State, Missouri and Rice all settled similar cases. In May, the family of an Ole Miss player filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the school and NCAA. Once again, sickle cell trait is involved.
 
Instead, Central Florida took this one to the wall arguing, incredibly, that Plancher died due to a heart condition. Each side presented its own set of experts, but the moment Plancher's parents took the stand this trial was over. Their testimony was compelling, emotional, raw

Still, Central Florida pressed on. In the end, the jury needed only five hours to determine that the Central Florida Athletics Association was negligent and didn't do everything in its power to save Plancher's life. His parents got money, not justice. Maybe that was saved for future players whose coaches and trainers educate themselves because of this verdict.

Twenty-one players have died since 2000 directly due to exertional stress during non-contact drills. Sickle cell trait remains the leading killer of college football players since that year.


Oklahoma knows all about sickle trait. Its head trainer Scott Anderson is one of the leading authorities on the condition because he chooses to be. Several Sooners have played with the trait and gone on to win major awards. If you're educated and, well, care it's not that hard to deal with the sickle cell athlete. Essentially, they need to be acclimated and ease into strenuous exercise.


"I think [the verdict] was the right decision, absolutely," Anderson said. "Hopefully it will have some impact. Hopefully some people are sitting up and listening. Then again, I don't know why there hasn't been any impact with the other dead football players and the other millions of dollars paid out. It's been business as usual."


From the beginning this case had the vibe of an arrogant university diving into the deep end of the legal pool without water wings. High-powered attorney doesn't begin to describe the plaintiffs' lead counsel. Steve Yerrid is the lawyer who got a $11.4 billion settlement from the tobacco industry in 1997 while representing the state of Florida.

Yes, it might have been a good idea to settle. Now someone -- preferably more than one -- has to pay -- not with cash, but with their job.

Ten million isn't enough to bring back Ereck Plancher but it shouts to the world that sickle cell trait isn't dangerous. Ignorance to it is.


 
 
 
 
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