by Irvin Muchnick
Joanne Atkins-Ingram, mother of Braeden Bradforth — the football player who died of exertional heat stroke following the first practice of the season last August at Garden City Community College — has had enough of waiting out piecemeal explanations during what is looking more and more like a cover-up. She told Concussion Inc. that she is headed to Garden City to talk personally with sources on the ground, knock on doors, and demand better answers than she has been given so far about what happened to her 19-year-old child.
Atkins-Ingram’s lawyer Jill Greene confirmed that the two will be flying to Kansas from New Jersey on Wednesday. “We hope to gather information we so far haven’t been able to attain from the school,” Greene told me.
One obvious point of frustration is an internal administrative review that Garden City CC’s interim president, Ryan Ruda, said he ordered shortly after the Finney County medical examiner’s autopsy of Bradforth showed the cause of death was not the random blood clot that had been promoted by Jeff Sims, the head football coach. Sims left the school immediately after taking the Broncbusters to their second national junior college championship game in three years. He is now the football coach at Missouri Southern State University.
In the two months since Ruda announced the internal review, the college’s chief executive has not named a lead investigator. Nor has he outlined the parameters and timeline of the investigation. Ruda also is the former athletic department director who had hired Sims.
In almost every controversial college football conditioning death among the 36 that have occurred since 2000 — certainly all those I have covered, beginning with Rashidi Wheeler’s at Northwestern University in 2001 — the institution has taken the basic step of demonstrating to the public its intention to handle the matter with some measure of independence and transparency.
Yet Greene said she has been given no such assurance in this case. “We have repeatedly asked if the report will be public, and we are told maybe it will be and maybe it won’t be,” she said.
The trip by Atkins-Ingram follows revelations from the hospital records and the 911 call pointing toward widespread understanding by those who discovered Bradforth, slumped and unresponsive, on the campus grounds near his dormitory after he staggered away from a scheduled evening team meeting, that he had been stricken with heat stroke. This followed repetitions of sprint drills on the field during which, some sources have told Concussion Inc., coach Sims withheld water from the players.
A paramedic reported that the coaching staff had directed Bradforth’s drenching with a water hose prior to the call to emergency medical services. The hospital records further note that Bradforth was found “in water.”
Contemporaneously produced documents from St. Catherine Garden City Hospital, where Bradforth was pronounced dead, make no mention of the pulmonary embolism, or blood clot, that Sims told the media was the theory of the cause of death, which he called an act of God.
A next-day coroner’s intake document obtained by Concussion Inc. likewise contained nothing corroborating the Sims claim. And the ultimate forensic pathology report, filed in state court by the medical examiner last November after a delay of four months, firmly pinned the fatality on exertional heat stroke. Sims left for his new job, and GCCC interim president Ruda promised a “review,” with no details.
DEATH OF BRAEDEN BRADFORTH — CHRONOLOGICAL HEADLINE LINKS