By Ken Reed
Another college football player has died. And it was another preventable death.
Following an Associated Press investigation, we now know that Garden City Community College (KS) football player Braedon Bradforth died from exertional heatstroke last August after running 36 50-yard sprints in afternoon heat and humidity, passing out, and not getting the proper treatment promptly.
Following the practice in question, Bradforth was struggling as he tried to leave the field. Assistant coach Caleb Young told him, “Hey, you’re good. Let’s go.” Teammates shortly thereafter found Bradforth passed out outside his dorm, “making a stressful moan.”
Instead of calling paramedics, Young decided to call the team’s head coach, Jeff Sims, for instructions on how to proceed with Bradforth. Sims, instead of calling paramedics, called athletic trainer T.J. Horton. Horton then arrived on the scene and instead of calling paramedics immediately spent time trying to revive Bradforth. As Bradforth’s condition worsened, Horton finally made a call to paramedics.
During this time period, Bradforth’s teammates could clearly see Bradforth had overheated and were pouring water on him in an attempt to cool him off. By the time Horton finally called paramedics, 25 minutes had passed since Bradforth was first found passed out by some of his teammates. Bradforth was declared dead that evening.
E. Randy Eichner, a former team physician and professor emeritus of medicine at the University of Oklahoma has researched the deaths of football players for 30 years. He believes Bradforth’s death is one of the most egregious he has reviewed during his career.
“They did a lot wrong,” said Eichner. He believes that had Bradforth been put in a tub of ice water when he got off the field, he would’ve walked home in good health and played the next day.
By all indications, the Garden City Community College football coaches were both sadistic and stupid on this day. First, by running an over-the-top practice in the August afternoon heat and humidity of Kansas. (It sounds like a stereotypical early season football practice when coaches try to make “real men” out of the young athletes under their charge.) Second, by not immediately icing Bradforth down, and then wasting 25 precious minutes before calling paramedics.
“The whole way that they handled this is wrong and we need to change this,” said Joanne Atkins-Ingram, Bradforth’s mom.
That’s true but the change needs to come not just at Garden City Community College but across the entire football culture in this country.
Braedon Bradforth is dead and he shouldn’t be. The same goes for University of Maryland football player Jordan McNair and Minnesota Vikings football player Korey Stringer before him. McNair and Stringer died in similar circumstances to Bradforth.
Let’s hope football coaches around the country — and the administrators that supervise them — learn from Bradforth’s death and change their coaching styles and injury protocols.
But given our sad history with these senseless tragedies, I’m not holding my breath.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
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- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
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