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Mizzou's O'Neal received no help at first

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  • Mizzou's O'Neal received no help at first

    This doesn't sound too good for Mizzou ... this would be tough to swallow if you were part of the young man's family.



    O'Neal received no help at first
    By Lori Shontz
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    08/23/2005

    COLUMBIA, Mo. - When Missouri linebacker Aaron O'Neal collapsed July 12 after a voluntary workout at Faurot Field, a coach asked his teammates to move away and give an athletics trainer space to assist O'Neal, who had struggled during the workout.

    Then, according to a report by Boone County medical examiner Valerie Rao, "The (trainer) approached and stated that there was nothing that could be done."

    Consequently, no one called 911 until 3:08 p.m. - about 30 minutes later. In the interim, according to Rao's report, O'Neal stuttered, collapsed in the locker room, stopped talking and went so limp that a staff member and teammate, working together, could barely lift him.

    The report concluded that O'Neal, 19, a Parkway North graduate, died that day under extremely rare, if not unprecedented, circumstances. Rao determined that O'Neal had contracted viral meningitis - a disease that is rarely fatal - and that the resulting swelling in his brain pushed on his spinal cord, which eventually caused his cardiovascular system to fail.
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    But for the O'Neal family, the unusual cause of death was not the issue. O'Neal's father, Lonnie, filed a lawsuit Tuesday afternoon against 14 employees of the Missouri athletics department, alleging that "had Aaron O'Neal been provided immediate and adequate medical care, he would have survived."

    The lawsuit asks for damages in excess of $25,000 per defendant - a figure, Lonnie O'Neal's attorney Bob Blitz said, that will be used to classify the case because Missouri law prohibits asking for a specific amount.

    "Negligence is absolutely obvious in this case," Blitz said.

    Missouri sports information director Chad Moller said the university had no comment. Rao declined to speculate on whether O'Neal would have lived if he had received medical care earlier, saying her field is pathology, not emergency or sports medicine. Fourteen people are named as defendants, Blitz said, because the university itself can't be sued due to its protection under governmental immunity.

    The 14 employees are athletics trainers Greg Nagel, Eric McDonnell, Alfred Castillo and Rex Sharp, who is also Missouri's director of sports medicine; strength and conditioning coaches Shannon Turley, Pat Ivey, Josh Stoner, Scott Bird, Shayne McKenzie and Antwan Floyd; associate director of sports medicine Pat Beckmann; head football coach Gary Pinkel; athletics director Mike Alden; and director of football operations Mark Alnutt.

    The lawsuit alleges that the employees failed to perform a variety of duties, among them assuring that the football program's emergency action plan was effective, improperly evaluating O'Neal's condition and "allowing the strength and conditioning coaches to verbally abuse and threaten Aaron O'Neal and order him to continue to participate in the drills after Aaron O'Neal showed signs of distress."

    Speaking after practice, Pinkel said, "I was just informed that I was named in a lawsuit, so responsibly I'm not going to in any way say what happened in the event on that day, and I wasn't there anyway. I might add, though, that I have a lot of respect and I care, and (Lonnie) O'Neal is a good man. He's got to do what he's got to do."

    Rao's report, however, recounts in painstaking detail what happened during and after the voluntary conditioning workout. She interviewed 10 of the other 11 players at practice that day, plus every member of the athletics staff, one by one. She identified none by name.

    The conditioning practice was divided into six stations, and O'Neal repeated drills at the fifth and sixth stations because he was not participating at full effort. During one bear crawl, for instance, " 'he was on his hands and knees rather than on his hands and feet.' This was extremely unusual for Aaron."

    When the drills were completed, the players stretched. Participants described O'Neal as "unsteady" and "wobbling." Then, as the coach made announcements, O'Neal leaned on a teammate's shoulder.

    "He was heard to say, 'Oh gosh,' and then went to the grounds 'slowly' first on his hands, and then on his knees and finally lay down on the turf," Rao wrote. "This is an 'unwritten' violation of an 'unwritten' rule ... Aaron has never done this before, and this was highly unusual for him. Aaron stated to two people on the field, one a player and one a coach, that he could not see and that his vision was blurred."

    At that point, the coaches moved the players so an athletics trainer could evaluate O'Neal, and nothing was done. O'Neal was helped off the field by a teammate, and upon arriving in the locker room, his condition worsened. He collapsed and said he was too exhausted to get up.

    "A staff person stated that 'he looked like he was passed out or drunk,'" Rao wrote.

    "O'Neal was not talking. A player poured water on him, noted that O'Neal's tongue was white and gave him water to drink. O'Neal spit it out.

    "They tried to slap his face to get him up," Rao wrote. "He was 'deep breathing' at this time. He was 'gasping and moaning' and now the staff person and player tried to get him up but could not because Aaron was limp and could not assist them in picking him up off the ground where he lay."

    At this point, the staff member - identified in the lawsuit as Stoner, an assistant strength and conditioning coach - convinced a landscape truck driver to help. Wrote Rao, "With a great deal of difficulty (Aaron kept slipping through their arms as they tried to lift him up off the ground), they put Aaron in the truck." He was transported to the Tom Taylor Complex, which is across the street from Faurot Field, rather than University Hospital, which is across the street on the other side.

    Upon arrival at the Taylor building, O'Neal was unconscious. He had a weak pulse, then none. A staff member decided to use a portable defibrillator, but the monitor said "no shock advised." Only at this point, according to the report, was 911 called.

    O'Neal was pronounced dead at University Hospital at 4:05 p.m., about two-and-a-half hours after the workout started.

    "All they had to do was get him to a hospital," Blitz said. "If he had received medical care of any sort, he'd be alive today."

    Blitz also noted that Rao is a University of Missouri of employee; she is a professor of forensic pathology at the university, and the university contracts with Boone County to provide medical examiner services. "That puts the whole autopsy report into question," he said, adding that he didn't know why an independent investigator was not hired.

    Rao discounted any suggestion of a conflict of interest.

    According to the autopsy report, O'Neal was not dehydrated. He was not using anabolic steroids or any product with ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, two substances that have been linked to sudden deaths in athletes.

    Blitz said that before filing suit, the family exchanged letters with Missouri, asking the university to accept responsibility for O'Neal's death, both by apologizing publicly and with a financial settlement of which he said, "we said we would be reasonable." The university, he said, "expressed their sorrow, but denied any responsibility."
    Dude. Can. Fly.

  • #2
    When this first happened I had hoped that the story wouldn't develop like this and negligence wouldn't be a factor.

    Disheartening.
    LONG LIVE THE NOTE!

    Comment


    • #3
      I hate copy editors.

      How did they not help him? He collapsed and they took him inside to the training complex. They gave him water and tried to use the portable defibrillator on him.

      How is an athletic trainer supposed to diagnose viral meningitis on the field, particularly when it looks like dehydration, fatigue, or heat stroke? Meningitis is very difficult to diagnose for physicians.

      And I'd like to hear what immediate medical procedures would have been performed at the hospital to save this man's life. He died within an hour and a half of collapsing on the field. I would like to see what the experts that Mr. O'Neal's attorneys present have to say about what would have saved his life.

      Moon

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Moon Man@Aug 24 2005, 08:05 AM
        I hate copy editors.

        How did they not help him? He collapsed and they took him inside to the training complex. They gave him water and tried to use the portable defibrillator on him.

        How is an athletic trainer supposed to diagnose viral meningitis on the field, particularly when it looks like dehydration, fatigue, or heat stroke? Meningitis is very difficult to diagnose for physicians.

        And I'd like to hear what immediate medical procedures would have been performed at the hospital to save this man's life. He died within an hour and a half of collapsing on the field. I would like to see what the experts that Mr. O'Neal's attorneys present have to say about what would have saved his life.

        Moon
        ++

        Spot on, Moon. Their lawyer is posturing in the press and is talking out of his ass. I truly feel for the family, but I want an internalist or other medical specialist to step and state that this young man could have been saved.

        jj twiggs - A great family restaurant

        Dear God, KBF here. I'd just like to say thanks, once again, for allowing Dusty Baker and I to live during the same time period. Every time I think he's given me his last gift -- overpitching Prior in the playoffs, getting cocky in Game 6 vs. the Angels, blowing another game for the Cubs -- he does something stupid like pitching to Albert Pujols. Thy will be done, baby!!!!!

        Comment


        • #5
          I just wish they had taken him to the hospital. It's literally right across the street. Then at least you wouldn't have to wonder.
          Dude. Can. Fly.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by dvyyyyyy@Aug 24 2005, 08:21 AM
            I just wish they had taken him to the hospital. It's literally right across the street. Then at least you wouldn't have to wonder.
            I completely agree, dv. Especially in light of recent heat/other football related deaths like the Wheeler kid at Nothwestern and Korey Stringer of the Vikings. The lawyers make me sick when they start spouting uninformed opinions that he could have been saved. I think it is nothing more than an attempt to bias the public and the potential jury pool.

            jj twiggs - A great family restaurant

            Dear God, KBF here. I'd just like to say thanks, once again, for allowing Dusty Baker and I to live during the same time period. Every time I think he's given me his last gift -- overpitching Prior in the playoffs, getting cocky in Game 6 vs. the Angels, blowing another game for the Cubs -- he does something stupid like pitching to Albert Pujols. Thy will be done, baby!!!!!

            Comment


            • #7
              What legal obligation does a trainer have to give the best care? I mean did they sign some sort of contract w/ the players guaranteeing anything?

              I'm not trying to be calous, but I really don't understand the legal liability.
              "Need some wood?" -- George W. Bush, October 8, 2004

              "Historians will judge if this war is just, not your punk ass." -- Dave Glover, December 8, 2004

              Comment


              • #8
                You always get one-sided stories at this point because the plaintiff lawyer is free to spout off anything he wants, while the defending side always gives the no-comment because they don't want to say anything that can be used against them later.

                Comment


                • #9
                  This situation brings to light a flaw with sports medicine itself.

                  Trainers are educated in detecting signs of sports-related injuries and think within that context. So, when O'Neal went down, it was classified as "fatigue" and left at that.

                  I'd say the first thing they should teach in the Sports Medicine field is if you don't know why something is happening, you get the player to a doctor who does and thinks outside of the sports-related illness box.

                  Trainers tape sprained ankles. The minute an illness/injury goes into the "I don't know" category, it's time for the licensed medical professionals to step in. Especially if they happen to be right across the damn street.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Iowa_Card@Aug 24 2005, 08:54 AM
                    Especially if they happen to be right across the damn street.
                    I mean, Brad Smith could hit the damn hospital with a football. A shame.
                    Dude. Can. Fly.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by dvyyyyyy+Aug 24 2005, 11:58 AM-->
                      QUOTE(dvyyyyyy @ Aug 24 2005, 11:58 AM)

                    • #12
                      Yeah, it's hard to buy into the "it wouldn't have mattered if we had taken him to the hospital because he had viral meningitis and he would have died anyway" defense, considering that they obviously didn't know what was wrong with him.

                      Comment


                      • #13
                        Originally posted by dvyyyyyy@Aug 24 2005, 09:58 AM
                        I mean, Brad Smith could hit the damn hospital with a football. A shame.
                        I've told you a million times - don't exaggerate.
                        "Need some wood?" -- George W. Bush, October 8, 2004

                        "Historians will judge if this war is just, not your punk ass." -- Dave Glover, December 8, 2004

                        Comment


                        • #14
                          Originally posted by phantom+Aug 24 2005, 10:16 AM-->
                          QUOTE(phantom @ Aug 24 2005, 10:16 AM)

                        • #15
                          Originally posted by Moon Man@Aug 24 2005, 08:05 AM
                          I hate copy editors.

                          How did they not help him? He collapsed and they took him inside to the training complex. They gave him water and tried to use the portable defibrillator on him.

                          How is an athletic trainer supposed to diagnose viral meningitis on the field, particularly when it looks like dehydration, fatigue, or heat stroke? Meningitis is very difficult to diagnose for physicians.

                          And I'd like to hear what immediate medical procedures would have been performed at the hospital to save this man's life. He died within an hour and a half of collapsing on the field. I would like to see what the experts that Mr. O'Neal's attorneys present have to say about what would have saved his life.

                          Moon

                          The more I look at this, the more I agree. That headline is really uncalled for.
                          Dude. Can. Fly.

                          Comment

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