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Friday, July 15, 2005

Jayhawk trainers diligent

In wake of MU death, Dr. Magee confident KU does 'good job'

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Dr. Larry Magee, Kansas University's director of sports medicine, knows tragic news like this week's death of a Missouri football player is unavoidable -- no matter how much that hurts to admit.

On Tuesday in Columbia, Mo., red-shirt freshman Aaron O'Neal died after collapsing at a voluntary summer workout. The Boone County medical examiner hasn't released an exact cause of death, but infection and trauma were ruled out Thursday.

O'Neal struggled near the end of the 45-minute workout, which was open to media. He collapsed, was helped off the field and died later Tuesday at a Columbia hospital.

So close to home, O'Neal's death is cause for double-checking KU's commitment to assuring the safety of its football players.

Magee is confident KU does enough -- maybe more than enough -- to catch any health problems.

"I think we do a good job," Magee said. "What you have to understand, you can probably do everything in the world to prevent something like this, but as long as people are exercising at high levels, there's still a risk. There are no guarantees in life."

KU's medical checkups are extensive from the day athletes arrive on campus. Incoming freshmen and transfers undergo a physical and are peppered with questions regarding their medical history. Any red flag means further evaluation.

In addition, new athletes undergo a cardiac screening to detect possible heart problems, as well as a test for sickle-cell disease, before being allowed to work out.

"The returns aren't very much. You don't find a whole lot," Magee said. "But we thought, 'We have the opportunity to do it, and as hard as these athletes have to work, it's just something we should do.'"

After the initial tests, athletes have vital signs checked annually, usually in August, for the rest of their college careers.

Magee communicates often with trainers, who are instructed to keep an eye open for any potential problems during day-to-day workouts.

"We have an emergency plan set up," Magee said. "We have a plan set up where if an athlete goes down, this is what happens."

Like Missouri and most other schools, KU's football team holds voluntary workouts several days a week during the summer, which include conditioning and weight training with strength coach Chris Dawson. The workouts started June 6 and will lead up to KU's preseason practices, which start in early August.

An athletic department spokesperson said Wednesday that Dawson would not be made available for comment. But Magee said the workouts were done under the watchful eye of qualified trainers in case something goes wrong -- just like at Missouri.

"We do a lot of things, and it's probably much more than what's needed," Magee said. "But it's still not a guarantee. It's really tragic when something like this happens."

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