The family of former Cal football player Ted Agu plans to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the Regents of The University of California in response to Agu’s death in February, the family said in a statement released Monday.
Around 6 a.m. on Feb. 7, Cal trainers noticed Agu was having difficulties about 150 yards from the stadium. He was placed on a cart where he was alert and taken back toward the stadium where he collapsed. He was given CPR and a defibrillator was used. Emergency crews transported him to Alta Bates Medical Center in Berkeley, where he died.
“During the course of the conditioning drill, Agu experienced dizziness, shortness of breath, loss of balance, and other signs of extreme fatigue that were clearly symptomatic of the sickling process,” the release said. “Despite the symptoms which clearly could and should have been observed, UCB coaches and trainers failed to immediately come to Agu’s assistance.”
The release mentioned sickling, which would suggest Agu had the sickle cell trait. Cal would have known this since testing for the trait is mandatory to play collegiate athletics. When reached by Yahoo Sports, Robert Glassman, one of the lawyers for the family, declined to give specifics of the lawsuit, saying more details would emerge Tuesday.
According to the Alameda County coroner’s office, Agu died of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, or excessive thickening of the heart muscle. According to the University of California San Francisco medical center, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is an inherited disease.
A minority of people with HCM will suffer from the most serious complications, which include sudden death, heart failure and stroke. It is important to note that HCM has a wide range of severity. Some people may not experience symptoms and may have normal heart evaluations well into adulthood. Others may have serious complications at a young age, including heart failure or sudden cardiac death. It is difficult to predict whether an individual will have a mild form of HCM or a more severe form. HCM can be a major cause of death in young athletes who appear healthy but die during intense exercise.
Some schools test for HCM, though most do not because it is not mandatory and the condition is rare. Having the sickle cell trait does not increase the chances of HCM. It is unclear whether Cal knew if Agu had HCM or even whether Agu knew he had the condition.
Glassman said all of these questions would be answered when the family formally files the complaint at the Alameda County Courthouse on Tuesday. Lawyers for the family also will issue a statement regarding the matter and hold a news conference on the courthouse steps.
Cal said in a release it could not specifically comment on the lawsuit.
"The members of our football family and our entire campus community remain deeply saddened with the loss of Ted Agu," the statement read. "We will continue to honor Ted in all we do. He will forever be a beloved member of our Golden Bear family. We have heard reports that a lawsuit may be filed this week against the University. Because we have not seen the lawsuit, we cannot speak to the specifics of this pending action and respectfully decline comment at this time."
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