MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Doctors working for Korey Stringer's widow say the Vikings tackle probably would have survived heatstroke if he had received different and faster treatment after falling sick on the practice field.
The five doctors plus a trainer made the comments in statements prepared for Kelci Stringer's wrongful death lawsuit against the team, which is scheduled to go to trial in June. They were hired by her attorneys as expert witnesses to bolster the family's long-held argument that the Pro Bowl player received substandard care after he collapsed on the practice field.
But attorneys for the team and the doctors who treated Korey Stringer discounted the statements, saying their own experts will show that he was treated properly.
Stringer died early Aug. 1, 2001, after collapsing in high heat and humidity during training camp in Mankato the day before.
"We certainly disagree with just about everything" in the statements, Vikings attorney James O'Neal said. "We'll have experts of our own to say so."
The statements, which have been served to defense attorneys, said that Vikings staff members should have been better-trained to recognize Stringer's heat illness sooner and that doctors caring for him should have used different methods, such as immersing him in ice water, to cool him.
Two of the statements conclude by saying that breaches in standards of care were a "substantial contributing factor" in Stringer's death.
Stringer went to an air-conditioned trailer for about 40 minutes before an ambulance was called.
Every minute counts when treating hyperthermia, and delay in recognizing and treating Stringer's illness was "unquestionably the single most important factor responsible for his death," Dr. James Knochel of Texas said in his statement. Knochel, who has written about heat's effects on health, said the delay demonstrates the training staff had "a complete lack of understanding and comprehension of the consequences of their failure to act."
Dr. William Roberts, codirector of the MinnHealth SportsCare Consultants in White Bear Lake, said, "No effective cooling efforts were undertaken for over 80 minutes, during which time Stringer's brain and other vital organs were slowly 'cooking."'
But O'Neal said that the team had an "extensive" heat-injury prevention program in place, and that personnel were properly trained. Stringer didn't show signs of heatstroke until "very late," he said, and people caring for him did not have the benefit of hindsight, as lawyers for Stringer's widow do now.
"It is well established that heatstroke can come on suddenly and catastrophically," O'Neal said. "They did not have the signs that would have informed people."
Doctors who treated Stringer in the emergency room in Mankato had little or no experience with heatstroke patients, according to the statements. One doctor criticized emergency room personnel for not contacting an "outside source" for guidance while Stringer was in their care for about 1 1/2 hours.
"This failure to ask for help resulted in the choice of the wrong cooling methods, wrong temperature measurements, misinterpretation of temperatures taken..." read a statement from Dr. Mark Popil of California, who has treated emergency room heatstroke patients.
Popil and another doctor said immersing Stringer in ice water would have been more effective than packing him in ice and using wet towels and fans, as doctors did along with bathing his IV fluids in ice and using other methods.
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