by Irvin Muchnick
“Considering the facts surrounding the case, the cause of death is judged to be exertional heat stroke.”
So states the 11-page autopsy report on the August 1 death of 19-year-old Braeden Bradforth, who collapsed in his dorm following the first practice of the season of the Garden City Community College football team.
Bradforth’s was the third college football conditioning death this year and the 36th recorded since 2000.
This finding has profound implications for the credibility and accountability of Garden City head football coach Jeff Sims, whose team plays tonight in the national junior college football championship game — after which Sims leaves to become the coach at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin.
Yesterday Concussion Inc. began asking Missouri Southern State about the vetting and interview process for the Sims hire, and whether the university probed the controversial circumstances of the death on his watch. Indeed, this morning we posted our report on this, just moments before this story on the autopsy broke. (Complete headline links to our Bradforth coverage are below.)
At the same time we were raising these questions, the long-delayed Finney County, Kansas, coroner’s report finally got released publicly, some 117 days after Bradforth passed away. We have uploaded the 11-page report, which was filed yesterday morning in state district court, for viewing at http://muchnick.net/bradforthautopsy.pdf. This reporter obtained a copy from the attorney for Braeden Bradforth’s mother.
At some point shortly I hope to have a statement from the mother. This much is already known: The autopsy release followed months of efforts on her part. On its face, and in view of the findings, the report betrays a community that has been circling the wagons around its winning college football program. I have learned authoritatively that Coach Sims never even spoke to the mother.
Sims did, however, speak to the media in the aftermath of his player’s untimely demise — for the purpose of pushing non-clinically based assertions that the young man had sustained a blood clot that was “not football-related.”
An expert in the field of football conditioning deaths told Concussion Inc. that the Bradforth autopsy report is “professional and commendable.” He said the forensic pathologist, Dr. Eva J. Vachal, “was not fooled by the self-serving Day 1 ‘diagnosis’” of Sims. Vachal’s “analysis and report are outstanding,” the expert said, in making crystal-clear that “the fault lies with Coach Jeff Sims.”
Shame on Sims and on Garden City Community College.
Following tonight’s championship game, the next set of questions will concern whether Missouri Southern State responsibly accounts for its new hire. Early signs are not promising.
As I was putting the finishing touches on this story, I received an email from Evan Jewsbury, the chief human resources officer.
“On behalf of the University, since your questions pertain to personnel related information which is kept confidential, as standard practice, the University will not be releasing or commenting on the interview questions or vetting process,” Jewsbury told me.
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