Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Coach charged in death of football player

Mr. David Stinson, head coach for the Pleasure Ridge Park H.S. football team, was charged this past Thursday for reckless homicide in the death of a player at summer practice.  Mr. Stinson asked the Jefferson County Commonwealth's Attorney to speak to the grand jury but his request was denied.  The only person who testified before the grand jury was a Louisville Metro Police detective.

Mr. Gilpin was taking Adderall at the time of his death and had been taking creatine - though he may have stopped taking it before his death.

On the afternoon of August 20, while the heat index hovered in the mid-90's, Max Gilpin, an offensive lineman, collapsed.  He was taken to the hospital with a body temperature of  107 degrees.  He died three days later.  Coaches allegedly refused to allow players to take water breaks during practice.  According to a deposition given by the school's athletic director, Mr. Craig Webb, Mr. Gilpin was on the ground for 10-15 minutes before anyone attended to him.

According to reports, a second player also collapsed and spent two days in the hospital.

According to Kentucky law, a person is guilty of reckless homicide, a Class D felony (carrying a range of 1-5 years in prison), if he causes, by his recklessness, the death of another.  Said the Commonwealth's Attorney, "a reasonable man should have realized that something like this could have occurred."  Interestingly enough, none of the five assistant coaches on the field at the time of Mr. Gilpin's collapse were charged.

Earlier this month I posted an article about assigning criminal liability to bad business decisions. Could this case set a precedent and expose all coaches to criminal liability when something goes horribly wrong at practice or in a game? Texas has always been famous for working football players hard during the summer so that they'll be ready to compete in the fall -- you haven't forgotten about Bear Bryant's Junction Boys? While in law school it was not unusual for me to come home from work and run 5 miles in 90 and 100 degree temperatures before going to class. Have the increased use of prescription pharmaceuticals, over the counter medicines and supplements made us more vulnerable to the heat? 

Only time will tell if Mr. Gilpin's death was a tragic accident or a death that could have been prevented.

See also:


James Lanier said...

Really, this is a dumb case. Sure the kid died, but i wouldn't blame it on the coach. I have played football for 8 years and not once blamed my coach for any health or mental health problems on the field, in school, or at home. Sure the coaches choose how much the kids run and how hard the practice is, but the player needs to know when to stop themselves. I would have times where i would pass out on the field from low blood sugar or dehydration, thats my fault for not getting the fluids i need and the right food in my body....eventually i learned to take myself over the team in certain cases. I never once picked my personal time over my team, but with health i did. Football is one of the most intense sports known to man. People get messed up bad, but thats part of the game. One thing coaches could do is preach health to their team more. In nevada, at least, there is a minimum of 3 water breaks required. So, this coach doesn't deserve to be charged with anything, im sure he feels bad enough that he lost one of his players. Coaches love their players and don't want that for any of them. It's the players that need to grow up and realize that they are passed their limits and need to stop. It is a team, not just the players, but the coaches and the rest of the staff that helps too. People are turning into a bunch of pansies....it's football for god sake, no one complains when a kid gets knocked out doing mma or gets a cut on their face. What's so different about football???

Hall Monitor said...

This story made http://detentionslip.org ! Check it out for all the crazy headlines from our schools.

Paul B. Kennedy said...


Thanks for your comments. I agree that this case sets a very bad precedent. I'm also concerned that the coach was indicted after the civil suit was filed. It almost looks as if the prosecutor is working for the plaintiffs.

Steven Edwards said...

By now, you've probably seen news reports from around the country reflecting the fact that the Jefferson County Public School system investigated this matter and found that Coach Jason Stinson did not break any rules in his conduct of the practice where the young man died. You may have missed the following story, however:http://www.courier-journal.com/article/20090308/NEWS01/903080413
The link above is to an article indicating that an expert witness for Coach Stinson, Dr. George Nichols, has testified that the player, Max Gilpin, was in fact properly hydrated when he was taken to the emergency room and that the prescription medication Adderall may have contributed to the child's problems. Big deal, you say, how credible is a the testimony of a retained expert witness, right? I agree, but almost hidden within the article (since the Courier-Journal has been going after the "Christian" football coach like a house on fire) is the fact that an emergency medicine physician in Louisville with no connections to the case save the fact that the Louisville Courier-Journal asked him to review the records, Dr. William Smock, has reached the same conclusion. Moreover, Dr. Smock is a nationally recognized authority on Emergency Medicine who is also one of the most formidable witnesses any attorney will ever encounter. This is one more indicator of why this criminal prosecution is an obscenity. I'm going to have to put the rest of my message on another comment due to space restrictions.

Steven Edwards said...

(Continued) It is odd to me that Dave Stengel, the Commonwealth Attorney for Jefferson County, never gets into court but for some reason plans to try this case personally. Why try this case, Dave? Could it be that you have some motivation other than a "search for the truth" in this decision to prosecute? As you have pointed out, Mr. Kennedy, the decision to prosecute followed something that to me was quite unusual, namely, a prosecutor's refusal of a person of interest's request to testify before a grand jury. Be that as it may, if Dave Stengel had every single fact in this case supporting his prosecution, he would still have a devil of a time trying to get the better of Dr. Bill Smock on the witness stand. In this instance, quite the opposite seems to be the case and Dr. Smock will absolutely eat him alive. I only hope somebody sneaks a video camera into the courtroom so we can see it on YouTube. Nichols is a good witness and he will do the same. I have personally retained the plaintiff's expert, George Rogers, M.D., and, while, an effective witness, he is not anywhere near as qualified as Nichols or Smock to testify on the emergency medicine issues. He is a toxicologist and is somewhat out of his element here. Then again, the fact that the Plaintiff in the civil case chooses to use a toxicologist rather than an emergency medicine physician as an expert witness ought to say something to you as well.

If you ask me, this kid was still on Creatine because he was a sophomore lineman trying to compete with bigger kids and he needed the strength boost. Rather than quit the creatine a month or so before practice began, the summer practices would be the very time he would be most tempted to use it in order to maximize strength against older, stronger kids. The testimony that he had discontinued the creatine some weeks before practice came from his mother. Can you say self-serving? I'm no doctor, but i know that one must take massive amounts of water in combination with creatine. I know nothing about the Adderall the doctors have spoken of. I think somebody should look into, to include exhuming the body, whether this kid developed rhabdomyolysis (breakdown of the muscle cell wall leading to muscle necrosis, i.e., tissue death) secondary to the creatine. I would also like to know if at some point the muscle necrosis grew to a point where the kid developed disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), which is kiss your ass goodbye territory, Finally, since there seems to be such a desire to prosecute somebody, how about going after the GNC's of the world that sell this stuff to 15 year old kids like it's candy, knowing full well that nothing the kid does with the stuff will be under the supervision of a physician? If the kid was on creatine, and I believe he was, how can a football coach be expected to know that fact or appreciate it's significance?