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Family of Football Player Files Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against UCF

The family of UCF football player Plancher, a 19-year-old freshman wide receiver who died March 18, 2008, filed a wrongful death lawsuit after an offseason conditioning workout on the UCF campus.

An autopsy found that the extreme stress of the workout triggered Plancher’s sickle-cell trait, a blood disorder that caused his body to shut down.

UCF officials said they tested Plancher for the trait in 2007 and were aware he had the genetic condition.

Enock and Giselle Plancher, Ereck’s parents, filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the UCF Athletics Association alleging coaches and athletic trainers were negligent in their treatment of Plancher.

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UCF has repeatedly defended its response to Plancher’s collapse and death.

In the lawsuit, the Planchers’ allege their son “experienced exhaustion, dizziness, shortness of breath, loss of balance resulting in a collapse, inability to verbally respond to questions and other signs of extreme fatigue that were ignored by the trainers and/or the coaches of the UCFAA.” The lawsuit alleges trainers’ and coaches’ response to Plancher’s “deteriorating condition was to make him stand up and complete the drills.”

The lawsuit states the UCF athletic association “owed a duty to its football players, including Ereck Plancher, to develop, plan and execute a conditioning program that was reasonably safe and that would not endanger the lives of its players.”

The Planchers allege UCF breached its duty by failing to provide their son with proper access to water and other fluids during the mat drills, failing to provide sufficient rest periods during these exercises, demanding that players exhibiting physical distress finish the drills, failing to provide adequate medical and emergency personnel and failing to provide proper supervisors who should recognize a player in distress.

The lawsuit alleges UCF was negligent for failing to call for emergency assistance in a timely manner, failing to administer proper medical assistance and failing to maintain an adequate emergency plan pursuant to NCAA guidelines.

The Planchers contend the coaches and trainers should have treated Plancher’s symptoms seriously because they were aware he had the sickle-cell trait.

Sickle-cell trait is a genetic flaw that affects the protein in red blood cells carrying oxygen to the body’s tissue and organs. About 2.5 to 3.5 million Americans have the sickle-cell trait, which typically does not produce any symptoms but can cause a severe reaction during intense physical activity, extreme heat and dehydration.

The lawsuit said UCF failed to provide its players with sickle-cell trait adequate water under NCAA guidelines, failed to identify symptoms of over-exertion in players with sickle-cell that could cause fatal injuries and failed to properly monitor athletes with sickle-cell trait during extreme conditioning drills.

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