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Family sues university in North Carolina for son's wrongful death

It is one thing to lose a child due to unavoidable circumstances, but losing a son or daughter in an event that could have been prevented is especially tragic. The parents of a former football player for Western Carolina University lost their son after he died from complications from an enlarged heart. Now the family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the university claiming that their son's death could have been prevented.

After attending his first year of college at Georgia Military College, the football player transferred to Western Carolina. Before practice for the football season began in 2009, the student had filled out a questionnaire in 2008 with the university disclosing that he had sickle cell trait.

However, on the first day of practice, the football player died. An autopsy later revealed that the combination of exertion during practice and sickle cell trait were contributing factors in the 20-year-old's death.

Although the player did not have sickle cell disease, his health was still affected by sickle cell trait. When individuals with sickle cell trait physically exert themselves, they risk suffering from low blood oxygen levels, increased muscle heat and dehydration.

The family filed the lawsuit earlier this year in Jackson County, North Carolina. The family claims that athletic directors and coaches for the football team were informed that the player had sickle cell trait but chose to ignore the player's risk factors associated with the condition during the football practice.

The lawsuit also alleges that the school should have had policies in place for the proper safety and training of athletes with sickle cell trait in order to prevent over-exertion.

The defendants acknowledge that they knew about the player's condition, but they deny that his condition was ignored during the team's first practice on July, 8, 2009.

This case is set to go to trial in the coming weeks. The family is seeking more than $10,000 in damages.

Source: The Post and Courier, "Former football player's family files suit," Sept. 27, 2011

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