11 | Korey Stringer: Exertional Heat Stroke
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11 / Korey Stringer Exertional Heat Stroke July 31, 2001 The northern latitude of Mankato, Minnesota, offered little relief from the brutal summer heat as the Minnesota Vikings began the second day of training camp. With temperatures in the 90s and the heat index hitting 110, the Vikings practiced for two and one-half hours. The players wore full pads as they engaged in one-on-one drills with intense hitting. The team’s medical staff, including head athletic trainer Chuck Barta, treated several Vikings players for heat-related problems that day. “You recognize you have the heat, you recognize you have to force fluids down them and you also have ice towels to keep them cool,” Barta said in an article days later in the New York Times.1 Most of those Vikings players recovered uneventfully. Korey Stringer did not. According to a press release issued by the team the following day, the offensive lineman walked off the field to an air-conditioned shelter. He reported feeling dizzy and weak before starting to breathe rapidly. Athletic trainers attended to him and called emergency medical services. Documents submitted to the court in a suit filed by Korey’s wife Kelci and his family against the Vikings and its coaches and medical staff paint a much scarier picture of the events of July 31.2 While attorneys for the team likely contested specific details of this account, it is at least worthwhile to present the family’s version of the key events on and off the field that morning. Stringer reported for practice Tuesday morning as he had promised after his struggles with the heat the day before. During the formal practice, Vikings center Matt Birk saw Stringer vomit clear fluid. After the formal practice ended, Stringer reportedly dropped to his knees, then lay on his back. Stringer collapsed at approximately 11:15 a.m. Athletic trainers took Stringer to a nearby trailer. Attorneys for Stringer’s family claimed that the athletic trainers involved offered insufficient attention to Stringer once he arrived in the trailer. They argued there was little to no assessment of Stringer’s medical condition, including measurements of his tem- 182 / That’s Gotta Hurt perature or his vital signs. They claimed that the athletic trainers showed little concern for Stringer’s lack of verbal responses to comments and questions or his inexplicably lying on the floor and humming and bobbing his head to “music.” According to court documents, athletic trainer Paul Osterman noticed that Stringer was “unresponsive” and did not move when asked to get onto a cart about 30 minutes after arriving in the trailer. When Osterman took Stringer’s pulse, he described it as “weak” but “steady.” Another athletic trainer, Fred Zamberletti, arrived and observed Stringer’s rapid, shallow breathing. Assuming Stringer was hyperventilating, they put a plastic bag over his nose and mouth. Osterman called Dr. David Knowles, a family practitioner in Mankato and physician for the training camp. Dr. Knowles reportedly told him to call an ambulance. Osterman called for an ambulance at 12:00 p.m. and noted a “glazed stare” in the player’s eyes. On the way to the hospital, emergency medical providers measured Stringer’s pulse at 140 beats per minute. He was comatose. The ambulance took Stringer to Immanuel St. Joseph’s-Mayo Health System, arriving at 12:24 p.m. When his body temperature was checked at 12:35 p.m., it measured 108.8°F. Korey Stringer passed away at 1:50 a.m. on August 1, 2001.3 Wide receiver Cris Carter remained at the hospital until Stringer’s death, along with head coach Dennis Green, fellow wide receiver Randy Moss, and the rest of the offensive line. Carter spoke at the news conference after Stringer’s death. “We thought everything was going to change (at the hospital). There’s nothing that can prepare you for something like this. It’s far graver than any football (game). The amount of hurt this has on our team. . . . [W]e are devastated.”4 Korey Stringer was born in Warren, Ohio, on May 8, 1974. After playing for Ohio State, he was the first-round draft pick of the Minnesota Vikings in 1995. Ultimately Stringer was named to the Pro Bowl in the 2000–2001 NFL season, his last before his death. Stringer lived all year in the Minneapolis area. He volunteered in community service programs in schools and at the St. Paul Library, which made him a local...


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Subject Headings

  • Athletes -- United States -- Biography.
  • Athletes -- Health and hygiene.
  • Sports medicine -- History.
  • Sports injuries -- History.
  • Sports -- United States -- History.
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