Editor's note: This is the seventh in a series of stories highlighting the top 10 local sports stories of 2018.

The day before Garden City Community College’s football team was set to play in the NJCAA championship, the autopsy report on a player who died after the first practice of the season in August was released, citing heat stroke as the cause of death for Braeden Bradforth.

Randy Eichner, a former college football team physician for the University of Oklahoma, said that heat stroke deaths “should never occur in college football.”

With Eichner’s expertise, Bradforth’s mother, Joanne Atkins-Ingram, is considering a lawsuit, said her lawyer, Jill Greene on Dec. 7.

The college released a statement regarding the autopsy report, claiming they were conducting an investigation into the circumstances of Bradforth’s death. The investigation’s findings, if completed, have not been released.

Bradforth’s death and the potential lawsuit against GCCC is The Telegram’s No. 4 local sports story of 2018.

Background

Bradforth died on Aug. 1, after being found unresponsive following the first football practice of the fall schedule. He was transported to St. Catherine Hospital at 10:36 p.m., about an hour after the end of practice that evening, the autopsy report stated, and was pronounced dead at 11:06 p.m.

From a Dec. 5 article in The Telegram, “The autopsy report lists the cause of death as ‘exertional heat stroke.’ The report notes that it was Bradforth’s first intense workout of the season, with temperatures in the 80s and humidity that evening.

“The report also states that Bradforth’s stomach contained food and he had vomited, and that he showed signs of hemorrhagic diathesis (an increased susceptibility to bleeding), tachycardia (abnormally fast heartbeat) and tachypnea (abnormally rapid breathing). The report also states that other conditions present may have complicated his condition, to include being overweight, cardiac hypertrophy (an abnormally large heart), and a history of asthma.”

Impact

“The institution recognizes the importance of the autopsy’s findings, and these findings provide (Braeden’s) family with an understanding of the medical circumstances surrounding his passing,” the college wrote in a statement sent from director of public relations Ashley Salazar on Dec. 5, when the autopsy report was made public.

Key stats and figures

According to Eichner, who has been part of an NCAA task force studying these types of deaths of football players, there have been 33 college football players who have died during or after conditioning sessions since 2000.

A study cited in the Journal of Athletic Training showed that exertion heat stroke is most likely during the “first 14 days of practice, especially the first 7 days.”

 

Autopsy: GCCC player died of heat stroke

Editor’s note: The following story, written by Telegram sports writer J. Levi Burnfin, first appeared in The Telegram’s Dec. 6 edition and is re-published below.

Garden City Community College football player Braeden Bradforth died of heat stroke following the first practice of the season on Aug. 1, according to an autopsy report filed Nov. 28 in Finney County District Court.

The college released a statement on Wednesday when asked for comment on the autopsy findings.

“The institution recognizes the importance of the autopsy’s findings, and these findings provide (Braeden’s) family with an understanding of the medical circumstances surrounding his passing,” the statement, sent from GCCC director of public relations Ashley Salazar, said.

Bradforth, 19, was found unresponsive following the football practice and was transported to St. Catherine Hospital at 10:36 p.m., about an hour after the end of practice that evening, the autopsy report stated. He was pronounced dead at 11:06 p.m.

A complete autopsy was ordered by Finney County Coroner Dr. Bradley Stucky.

The autopsy report lists the cause of death as “exertional heat stroke.” The report notes that it was Bradforth’s first intense workout of the season, with temperatures in the 80s and humidity that evening. The report also states that Bradforth’s stomach contained food and he had vomited, and that he showed signs of hemorrhagic diathesis (an increased susceptibility to bleeding), tachycardia (abnormally fast heartbeat) and tachypnea (abnormally rapid breathing). The report also states that other conditions present may have complicated his condition, to include being overweight, cardiac hypertrophy (an abnormally large heart), and a history of asthma.

Bradforth was set to be a defensive lineman for the Busters, and the report stated he was 6-foot-4 and weighed 300 pounds.

Bradforth’s mother, Joanne Atkins Ingram, told New Jersey media outlet NJ Advance Media that she plans to sue GCCC.

“I hold the whole school liable,” she told NJ Advance Media. “It’s bittersweet. I’m glad to know the truth, but it doesn’t bring him back.”

Former GCCC head football coach Jeff Sims, now the head coach at Missouri Southern State University, declined to comment on the autopsy’s findings when reached Wednesday.

GCCC’s statement also said the college has begun a review of the incident at the direction of Interim President Ryan Ruda, calling it one of the first actions he took in his role — Ruda was named interim president in September.

“The ongoing review is intended to ensure that the college can transparently inform the community, the media, and — most importantly — Braeden’s family of the accurate facts and circumstances surrounding Braeden’s death,” the statement read.

The college declined to comment further Wednesday about the scope of the review, or if the college was reviewing its practices regarding player safety.

Bradforth, a graduate of Neptune High School in Neptune, N.J., was an incoming freshman at GCCC and arrived on campus just two days prior to his death.

Contact J. Levi Burnfin at lburnfin@gctelegram.com.