Three UCF football team physicians testified Tuesday they did not know Ereck Plancher tested positive for sickle cell trait and never counseled him about the condition.
Orange County medical examiner Joshua D. Stephany also told the jury on day seven of the Plancher wrongful death trial his research determined the UCF football player's death was caused by complications from sickle cell trait. He said it is a genetic disorder that can cause red blood cells to break down organs when the body is under extreme stress.
UCF Athletics Association attorneys have argued Stephany's autopsy report was incorrect and an undiagnosed heart condition caused Plancher's death. They are scheduled to cross examine Stephany Wednesday morning, then UCF coach George O'Leary is expected to testify. O'Leary and his staff supervised Plancher's final workout March 18, 2008. Plancher died shortly after completing the offseason conditioning drills.
Dr. Dan Monet, Dr. Douglas Meuser and Dr. Kenneth Krumins, who all assist the UCF football team on a volunteer basis, testified athletic trainers are responsible for informing athletes about the trait.
Plancher family attorneys contend the football player was never told he tested positive for sickle cell trait, while UCFAA attorneys argue head athletic trainer Mary Vander Heiden informed him he had the trait. There is no written record he was informed of the positive test results. Vander Heiden may be called to testify Wednesday.
Meuser and Krumins said they did not recall having any contact with Plancher. Monet, the football team's head clinical physician, testified he did Plancher's physical and signed a prescription for a sickle cell trait blood screening. The doctor said he never saw the results of Plancher's blood test, which he said are typically sent directly to the athletic trainers.
Monet was asked whether Plancher was entitled to know he tested positive for sickle cell trait and Monet responded yes.
"From my training, I would say if you have a positive sickle cell, it's something that needs to be addressed with the player," he said.
He recalled speaking with Vander Heiden shortly after Plancher's death. Monet said the conversation took place in the UCF football training room before the autopsy report was released.
"I was there for training room rounds, and I just wanted to find out from her, `What do you think went on?'" Monet said. "That's when she told me he had a positive sickle cell [trait test]."
Monet said it was important for athletic trainers to know an athlete has sickle cell trait so that preventative measures, including keeping an athlete hydrated, could be taken if there are problems during the workout. He said UCF had "some of the best trainers," so he thought all the athletic trainers knew Plancher had sickle cell trait.
Plancher family attorneys have told the jury Robert Jackson, the sole athletic trainer at Plancher's last workout, did not know the football player tested positive for the trait.
Two former UCF players at Plancher's final workout on March 18, 2008, told the jury the players had no access to water. Kinesiology professor Douglas Casa, a Plancher family expert witness who reviewed more than 20 depositions related to the case, testified he thought water was available but the workout was not conducive to the players stopping to drink the water.
UCFAA attorneys have argued water was available
The Plancher family attorneys played highlights of videotaped testimony by Meuser, who was one of the UCF football team's volunteer physicians.
Meuser testified he never reviewed the reason UCF's policy of testing athletes for sickle cell trait.
He told the jury he never talked with Plancher about testing positive for sickle cell trait, but he thinks it is reasonable for all athletes who test positive for the trait to be informed of the results.
Meuser reiterated Monet's statements about to properly treat an athlete who has sickle cell trait, including gradually increasing the intensity of their workouts and making sure they were properly hydrated.
When he was asked whether an athletic trainer should intervene if an athlete with sickle cell trait shows signs of distress, Meuser responded, "early recognition of an athlete in distress is part and parcel of what an athletic trainer should be doing."