Jun 1, 2015
Heat Stroke Victim Sues to Rejoin Football Team

Two years after nearly dying from heat stroke suffered during practice, a Towson University football player is suing the school. However, he is not trying to hold school officials responsible for the medical emergency—he is trying to force them to let him return to the team.

According to an article in The Baltimore Sun, Gavin Class, then a 6-4, 305, pound lineman, collapsed during a practice in August of 2013. His body temperature reached 108 degrees, his heart stopped, and his liver failed. Over the next three months, he underwent more than a dozen surgeries, including a six-hour liver transplant.

Since then, Class has been working to return to the football field, which would reportedly make him the first liver transplant recipient to play a contact sport. Overcoming challenges ranging from pneumonia to lymphoma, he’s regained much of the weight he lost and can bench press 365 pounds. The school, though, has denied his request to rejoin the team.

“The sports medicine professionals [at Towson] believe that the risk of serious injury or death as a result of another heat stroke is too great to clear Mr. Class to play,” Traevena Byrd, the school’s general counsel, wrote to Class’ attorney. “While [he] has made admirable strides in his recovery, he is unable to return to playing football safely and … no reasonable accommodation can be made to adequately protect him from potentially devastating health effects.”

Class’s suit in U.S. District Court claims disability discrimination. His father, Jon Class, told The Sun he believes Towson’s decision is based on the premise that “a person who suffers heat stroke cannot return to normal function, which isn’t true. They’ve taken away Gavin’s lifelong dream, basing it on fear rather than fact. 

“It’s ridiculous to have to go to court to settle this after all Gavin has been through, and all he has done to come back,” Jon Class added. “He’s very frustrated. He still lifts weights with the team, in their voluntary summer workouts, but they won’t let him go outside and do anything strenuous now that it has gotten hot.”

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