View Full Version : Attorney: Missouri football player who collapsed after workout died from meningitis

08-23-2005, 03:20 PM
Attorney: Missouri football player who collapsed after workout died from meningitis

By ALAN SCHER ZAGIER, Associated Press Writer
August 23, 2005
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) -- The family of a Missouri football player who collapsed following a workout last month filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the school Tuesday, the same day the family's attorney said Aaron O'Neal died of viral meningitis.

Boone County Medical Examiner Valerie Rao told O'Neal's family and then the Tiger football team about her findings Monday, attorney Bob Blitz said.

And while the cause of death was not directly related to an on-field injury, the autopsy results still don't resolve questions about the 19-year-old O'Neal's care, said Blitz.


``When you have viral meningitis, these symptoms start showing before,'' he said. ``Nobody really dies from viral meningitis unless you have symptoms.''

In a news release sent later in the day, the attorney said the legal action was a result of ``preposterous denial by University of Missouri officials of any responsibility for Aaron's demise.''

The Boone County Medical Examiner's Office planned a news conference Tuesday afternoon to discuss the findings. Rao completed an autopsy the day after O'Neal's death, ruling out trauma and foul play as causes of death, and ordered an extensive series of pathological and toxicology tests that took several weeks.

University sports information director Chad Moller said the school would not discuss specifics until the coroner released her findings. School officials also declined to comment immediately.

O'Neal, a backup middle linebacker who was 6-foot-3 and weighed 220 pounds, started to struggle during conditioning drills about 45 minutes into the July 12 session, during which players wore shorts, T-shirts and football cleats but no helmets or pads.

He slumped to the ground after the final drill and was helped off the field by a teammate. He was pronounced dead at University Hospital at 4:05 p.m., or just over 90 minutes after the workout ended.

Before he was taken to the hospital, though, O'Neal was driven to the football team offices -- a delay that Blitz said proved fatal.

Meningitis, an inflammation of the tissues that cover the brain and spinal cord, can be caused by both bacterial and viral infections. Symptoms include headaches, fever, neck stiffness, vomiting, sensitivity to light, drowsiness or confusion. Viral meningitis is serious, but rarely fatal, while the bacterial variety can quickly cause death or disability.