Former GCCC football player's mother holds press conference after release of external review report

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (RELEASE/KWCH) Saturday, November 16, 2019

The mother of a former Garden City football player held a press conference Saturday, speaking for her son who died of a heat stroke.

This comes after an investigation found her 19-year-old son Braeden Bradforth died as a result of "lack of leadership."

His mother gave her thoughts on what the investigation found and talked about a bill created by New Jersey congressman Chris Smith in August. The bill is aimed to help students get the medical attention they deserve when in these situations.
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An independent investigation into the heatstroke death of a 19-year-old football player who collapsed after the first day of conditioning practice at a Kansas community college has found “a striking lack of leadership.”

Braeden Bradforth, a 315-pound defensive lineman for Garden City Community College, was found unconscious outside his dorm hall after practice on Aug. 1, 2018.

In the report, it says Braeden was the last to leave the field after a day of conditioning training. For a short time, he was with a coach who left for the team meeting.

The coach is said to have stated that Braeden decided to quit the team, but the report says Braeden could have been disoriented, feeling ill and not able to make rational decisions.

The report estimates he was found 20 to 30 minutes later by other players in a hot alley outside of the dorm.

The New Jersey native died that night at a hospital.

He arrived at the college two days before.

The report highlights a lack of oversight, a failure to assess athletes before the conditioning test and a lack of attention paid to Bradforth’s fitness.

The staff didn’t consider whether he had acclimatized to the higher altitude and wasn’t prepared to deal with exertional heat illness. The report says no staff or emergency personnel treated his escalating symptoms of heatstroke.

Bradforth's mother, Joanne Atkins-Ingram, says the independent investigation put in writing what she says she knew all along: "Braeden wasn't kept safe."

Detailed across 50 pages of the report are answers Atkins-Ingram and her attorney Jill Greene say they've been fighting for.

"It’s taken me a whole year and a few months to just get simple answers as to what happened to my son," said Atkins-Ingram.

"It contains information that we suspected was the case. It contains information that is new to us and very informative. A lot of it is not surprising, but it’s also quite shocking," said Attorney Jill Greene. "The decisions that were made by the adults involved in this tragedy, it’s just incomprehensible to the both of us that this situation was treated the way it was. We hope that there will be change as a result of this report."

Those answers, they say, tell why Badforth died after the first day of football practice August 1, 2019.

"No question that the college dropped the ball," Greene says.

Atkins-Ingram says nobody took the initiative to check on Braeden at the practice in August 2018, where he collapsed. She says no one asked where he was going or looked him in his face to make sure he was okay.

The report also included findings related to the cause of death.
1) "A cause of Braeden Bradforth's death was a poorly designed and administered conditioning test for an unconditional, non-acclimated student-athlete."
2) "A contributing cause of Braeden Bradforth's death was the failure to have and implement an effective Emergency Action Plan."
3) "No pre-existing condition plated a role in causing Braeden Bradforth's death."

The report found that first responders were not immediately called.

"Rather than to call 911 immediately, clearly, you have a child in distress," said Greene. "The decision was made to call the superior, the boss."

Greene says there are other sections of the report that concern them.

"Portion that speaks to surveillance cameras. Some weren’t working. Those that were didn’t have clear footage. That campus police chose not to preserve surveillance. All of that is very disturbing as well," said Greene. "The college dropped the ball on many levels. Hopefully, other educational institutions will learn from this event as well to make the necessary changes."

Since Bradoforth's death, the college has made policy changes with new medical training for athletic department staff and additional personnel.

"I can't just trust that that list is being enforced," Atkins-Ingram says. "That's why I said I think a commission needs to be formed, or a committee needs to be formed."

She says the report from the independent investigation into her son's death is about a need for change.

"We have to stand up for our babies because that’s what they are. I don’t care that they’re 18, 19, 20 years old in school. They’re still children," she says.

For Atkins-Ingram, it's more than just at schools but also businesses.

"It has to be talked about because the first few minutes are the most vital. Had they simply called 911 when they found Braeden, this situation could be different," said Atkins-Ingram.

Atkins-Ingram and Greene have been working with lawmakers to learn what happened to Braeden and get legislation to help safeguard student-athletes.

"He had a great personality; he just loved humanity. The fact that we’ll never get to see him suited up again is painful for us because he loved the game of football. His passing has truly changed me forever, but it’s also changed others forever," says Atkins-Ingram.

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Garden City Community College has received the final report from the independent, external review into the untimely death of student-athlete Braeden Bradforth, conducted by Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP. Following the Nov. 12, 2019 Board of Trustees meeting, the Board has announced that it will release the report for the external review to the family of Braeden Bradforth. The GCCC Administration and Board of Trustees believe it is important that this information be shared with Braeden’s family in an effort to respectfully communicate all of the information that GCCC has about Braeden’s unfortunate passing directly to his family and loved ones. GCCC is hopeful that the report will serve to answer any questions that still remain for Braeden’s family and continues to extend condolences following the tragedy.

Action Taken by GCCC for Improved Protocol and Practices in Athletics since August 1, 2018

Student safety and health continues to be of the utmost importance on our campus. Garden City Community College has taken a proactive role in improving processes and procedures across the entire campus since the summer of 2018. Those changes that directly impact athletics are:

•GCCC Sports Medicine Advisory Team Meeting—August 20, 2018. Topics of discussion included practice and game coverage, cleanliness of athletic training room, CPR and First Aid training, emergency action plans, checklist of items for football practice, injury reporting, and physicals. The team meets monthly and is comprised of the following key personnel:
○ Two team physicians (orthopedic and general practice)
○ Three GCCC athletic trainers
○ Head Athletic Trainer for St. Catherine Hospital
○ GCCC Nurse
○ GCCC Director of Athletics
○ GCCC VP for Student Services/Assistant Athletic Director
○ GCCC President
• Hired a third full-time Athletic Trainer – August 20, 2018.
• All coaching staff will now complete First Aid and CPR training on an annual basis.
• A new strength and conditioning coach was hired to plan and oversee conditioning programs for each athletic team-- January 3, 2019.
• The Athletic Department implemented immediate follow up welfare checks with players that leave practice.
• Policy has been developed for protocol in recognition and treatment of heat-related illness.
• Additional Campus Police personnel position was created in order to work towards providing 24/7 coverage.
• Athletic Training Policies and Procedures Manual has been drafted and is in review.
• Implemented modified practice times due to heat
• Purchased additional ice bath tubs and coordinating tents for use at the stadium during practices and games
• Implemented practice of a thorough review of the health physicals of student-athletes by the team physicians and athletic trainers prior to engaging in any athletically-related activities
• Hired Public Relations Director – September 17, 2018.
• Preliminary conversations about renovation and updates to the athletic training facilities at GCCC have begun

GCCC values student health and safety, and the GCCC Sports Medicine Advisory Team and the Athletic Director’s Office will function as a reviewing body for student-athlete health and safety concerns within the GCCC Athletic Department. These groups will consider any further recommendations for improvements of processes, procedures, or facilities which would directly benefit the safety, health, and security of GCCC student-athletes.

Garden City Community College exists to produce positive contributors to the economic and social well-being of society.