- Mark Fainaru-Wada
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The parents of a University of Central Florida football player who died last year following an offseason conditioning session have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the school.
The suit, filed Thursday in the Ninth Judicial Court of Orange County, Fla., alleges that as redshirt freshman wide receiver Ereck Plancher struggled and collapsed during an intense workout on March 18, 2008, the response of coaches and trainers was to "make him stand up and complete the drills."
Plancher, teammates later told ESPN, collapsed a second time at the end of the workout, which the lawsuit states included intense exercises known as "mat drills." Plancher died about an hour later. His parents, Enoch and Gisele, are seeking unspecified damages.
The university has stated a review of the incident showed that coaches and staff reacted appropriately.
"The health of our student-athletes is our top priority. UCF has made that clear by conducting a comprehensive and independent review of the football program's training policies and procedures," the school said in a statement. "The results of that review are expected soon."
A subsequent ESPN "Outside the Lines" investigation raised questions about UCF's handling of the situation before, during and after Plancher's collapse.
An autopsy revealed that Plancher suffered from sickle cell trait, an inherited condition that, if not attended to properly, can cause serious problems during high-intensity workouts. Coaches and trainers were aware that Plancher had the trait, which has been cited in the deaths of at least 10 young athletes since 2000.
The lawsuit claims UCF was negligent in several areas, including not providing players who had sickle cell trait with sufficient rest and with proper access to fluids.
"While the lawsuit limits what the university can say, what we know to date about the March 18 workout indicates that coaches and staff acted appropriately. Per university policy, UCF will not discuss specifics about the lawsuit," UCF said in the statement.
As a result of the OTL report, the Los Angeles Dodgers have begun testing all of their major and minor league players for the trait, according to head athletic trainer Stan Conte.
The Dodgers' trainer said he surveyed other teams around the league and found that the Chicago White Sox were the only other team testing for the trait. Conte said he didn't hear back from two clubs.
Mark Fainaru-Wada is an investigative reporter for ESPN's enterprise unit. He can be reached at email@example.com.
The parents of Ereck Plancher, who died during an offseason workout last year, have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the University of Central Florida.