GARDEN CITY, Kansas — It’s been more than a year since 19-year-old Braeden Bradforth died from exertional heat stroke after his first football practice at Garden City Community College.
A 48-page independent investigation found systemic failures within the athletic department and placed blame on multiple employees as well as medical professionals who treated Bradforth on Aug. 1, 2018.
Bradforth’s parents sent the college letters demanding $50 million dollars, the first step required by Kansas law before they can sue the college. On Tuesday, Garden City Community College’s Board of Trustees unanimously denied the claim amounts, saying the parties were interested in moving forward with mediation.
Meanwhile, the college has already made changes within its athletics department, GCCC President Ryan Ruda said.
“We didn't wait for the internal review. We didn't wait for the external view,” Ruda said. “We've hired an additional full-time athletic trainer. We now have three. We've hired a full-time strength and conditioning coach … we’ve enacted the emergency action plans for all of our venues.”
By sending demand letters, Bradforth’s parents have started down the road of a possible lawsuit.
GCCC Board Chair Blake Wasinger said the trustees denied the claims on the advice of their attorneys.
“Given the notice of claims, it takes 90 days or a denial. So instead of waiting 90 days, we go ahead and deny it so we can move into that mediation,” he said after the meeting.
Attorney Shawn Foster, who is representing Bradforth’s father, said negotiations with the school are productive, but if efforts aren’t successful within the next several weeks, he may file a lawsuit in February.
According to the independent investigation, there were “a series of events” culminating in Bradforth’s death. It said he struggled to complete 36 50-yard sprints at an altitude of 2,800 feet during his first practice. He had left his hometown of Neptune, New Jersey — which sits at sea level — two days earlier.
Nearly 30 minutes after practice, football players found Bradforth sitting on the ground leaning against a brick wall at his dorm. When a coach reached Bradforth in the alley, players asked him to call 911, but 11 more minutes passed before the athletic trainer called for an ambulance.
Attorney Chris Dove, who represents Bradforth’s mother, Joann Atkins-Ingram, told the Kansas News Service that she wants to see changes within college athletic departments.
“(It’s) not the first time this has happened,” Dove said. “This isn’t like a cardiac event; it’s really extremely preventable. The signals of it are very easy to pick up and you can stop it immediately.”
Dove also said athletic departments should have tubs or trays for students who need to be cooled down with ice.
The investigation noted that Bradforth’s “core temperature was never assessed and no effective method of cooling him was ever implemented by anyone.”
Bradforth’s death led to a bill, filed by New Jersey U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, who represents Bradforth’s hometown. It would establish a commission to study heatstroke in young athletes; the bill has been assigned to a committee but hasn’t advanced beyond that.
Corinne Boyer covers western Kansas for High Plains Public Radio and the Kansas News Service. You can follow her on Twitter @corinne_boyer or or email cboyer (at) hppr (dot) org. The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on the health and well-being of Kansans, their communities and civic life.
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