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Education

Wharton athlete's family threatens suit, demands safety changes


Published:   |   Updated: February 24, 2014 at 02:46 PM

TAMPA - An on-campus incident that left a Wharton High School football player with a fractured skull could result in legal action if the school district does not make safety-related changes requested by the player's family.

On Oct. 9, junior Sean McNamee hit his head on a paint machine that was on Wharton's football field before practice. McNamee, who drove himself home after the incident, spent nine days in a medically induced coma at Florida Hospital Tampa to reduce brain swelling.

The law firm representing McNamee's family sent an notice via mail Friday to the Hillsborough County School District's saying a lawsuit will be filed in six months the family's "claims are not satisfactory resolved."

The family is seeking reform to district procedures regarding supervision and medical intervention to avoid future instances.

The notice, from The Yerrid Law Firm, states the Wharton football coaching staff did not properly supervise student athletes and should have removed the paint machine from the area, and that the athletic trainer on site did not obtain proper medical intervention.

"Student-athletes deserve better than the treatment afforded to this outstanding young man," the notice reads. "Families who entrust their children and young adults to our schools need to be assured appropriate procedures are in place to deal with catastrophic injuries sustained during school sanctioned activities. In addition to restitution, please be advised we will be seeking reform and the establishment and adherence to mandated protocol in order to protect other student athletes and their families from experiencing this type of unnecessary tragedy."

School district spokesperson Stephen Hegarty declined to comment due to pending or possible litigation.

On the day of the incident, McNamee and teammates were playing catch when he jumped for a pass. Upon landing, he struck his head against the paint machine, which is used to line the field.

District officials have said McNamee was escorted off the field to see a trainer following the incident, and the trainer called McNamee's family. McNamee was not taken to a hospital from the school.

Attorneys for McNamee's family requested copies of video footage from the field from the school district. According to the notice, images showed McNamee being left alone for minutes at a time until he left campus unsupervised.

McNamee and his family addressed the media at a news conference Nov. 20 at the hospital. At that gathering, McNamee walked on his own and with his parents, hugged nurses and surgeons, and smiled for photos. He removed his protective head gear to reveal the partially removed left side of his skull, which had been temporarily inserted inside his stomach as the brain swelling continued to decrease.

"I have made great process, but I know I have a long way to go before I am back to where I was before the accident," McNamee said at the time.

nwilliams@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7305

Twitter: @NickWilliamsTBO

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