Report says lack of leadership led to Kansas football player’s death

WICHITA, Kan. — A scathing report following an independent investigation into the heatstroke death of a 19-year-old football player who collapsed after the first day of conditioning practice at a Kansas community college found “a striking lack of leadership.”

Braeden Bradforth, a 315-pound (140 kilogram) defensive lineman for the Garden City Community College, was found unconscious outside his dorm room after practice on Aug. 1, 2018. The New Jersey teenager died that night at a hospital.

No lawsuits have been filed in the case.

A serious lack of oversight set off a series of events that led to Bradforth’s death, according to the report by investigators, including sports medicine specialists Walters, Inc. School staff failed to assess athletes prior to the conditioning test and paid little attention to assessing Bradforth’s personal level of fitness, the report said.

In particular, coaching staff didn’t consider if he had properly acclimatized to working out in summer temperatures at a higher altitude.

“A cause of death was a poorly designed and administered conditioning test for an unconditioned, non-acclimatized student-athlete at an altitude with 9% less oxygen than he was accustomed to at his home” in Neptune, New Jersey, the report said.

The college was not sufficiently prepared to ensure safety at practice or to deal with exertional heat illness, the report said. No college athletic training or coaching staff member and no emergency medical service or hospital emergency department personnel identified or treated Bradforth’s escalating symptoms of the heat stroke that caused his death, it found.

A timeline included in the report detailed the 73 minutes that passed from the moment Bradforth left the stadium to his arrival at the hospital.

“An effective plan likely would have rescued him from what turned out to be his untimely death,” the report said. “The response time and significant delays between multiple opportunities for effective treatment were a cause of death.”

Teammates found Bradforth collapsed in an alley, according to emails obtained by The Associated Press through an open records request.

Assistant football coach Caleb Young told officials Bradforth was “making a stressful moan” when he arrived on the scene, but rather than immediately dial 911 he called the head coach Jeff Sims “for instruction to see how we wanted to handle the situation.”

Young wrote in one email to university officials that while he was on the phone with Sims, players were filling jugs and bottles from drinking fountains to pour water on Bradforth and attempt to make him drink.

The college hired the investigators to conduct an independent review of the case under pressure from Bradforth’s family and the New Jersey congressional delegation. The University of Maryland also hired Walters, Inc., after the heatstroke death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair after a workout last year.

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