June 12, 2002 at 11:08 PM EST - Updated June 29 at 9:10 PM
By RENEE RUBLE, Associated Press Writer
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Korey Stringer didn't appear to be suffering from heat-related illness until he lost consciousness after leaving practice, the Minnesota Vikings' trainers told attorneys in the wrongful death suit brought by Stringer's widow.
The offensive tackle died of heatstroke Aug. 1 after collapsing on the second day of the team's preseason training camp in Mankato.
His body temperature was 108.8 degrees when he arrived at a hospital 15 hours before his death.
Stringer's widow, Kelci, in filed a wrongful death lawsuit in January against the Vikings, team coaches and medical staff, claiming her husband didn't receive adequate or timely care. She's seeking $100 million in damages.
New details of Stringer's final hours were released Tuesday in depositions filed in Hennepin County District Court, including testimony by team trainers.
Paul Osterman, an intern trainer, testified that players called him to help after the 335-pound Stringer collapsed on the field following a morning practice July 31.
"He was, I believe, on the ground and then he quickly got up, and that's when I asked him, 'Korey, how are you doing?' And then he ignored me and proceeded to go up and hit the big bag," Osterman said in the deposition.
At the trainer's suggestion, Stringer went to the air-conditioned first-aid trailer on the field, choosing to jog the way.
Osterman said he wanted to keep an eye on Stringer as a precaution.
"There really wasn't anything that said to you he was having problems," he said in the deposition.
Once inside, Stringer jumped on one of the tables and appeared frustrated about having to come into the trailer. Stringer took a few sips of water and eventually moved to the floor, where the trainer took off the player's shoes, socks and ankle tape, according to the court documents.
Stringer thanked him and when Osterman brushed the player's arm, "His skin was cool and moist," he testified.
Stringer drank more water and began humming, moving to the beat, while Osterman called for a cart to come get Stringer. Osterman said when he later tried to put an ice towel to Stringer's forehead, he pushed it away.
After the cart arrived, Osterman said Stringer became unresponsive with his eyes open as he and a fellow trainer tried to get him off of the floor.
When asked if he had a sense of urgency, Osterman said, "This was the first sign, where, you know, something was wrong and I was concerned and that's the first time I checked his vitals. His breathing was normal and that's the first time I took his pulse."
Osterman said he didn't think about taking Stringer's temperature because there wasn't a thermometer in the trailer. He called for Fred Zamberletti, the team's medical services coordinator.
Stringer's breath was rapid and shallow when Zamberletti arrived. In a separate deposition, Zamberletti said he thought Stringer was hyperventilating and had an assistant place a bag over his nose and mouth.
Zamberletti said he had no idea what was wrong, Stringer could have been having a seizure or illness related to an insect bite.
But at no point in the trailer, did he think Stringer's difficulties were heat-related, he said in the deposition.
Stringer "didn't feel hot," said Zamberletti, who had 44 years' experience as an athletic trainer.
He did tell assistants to call for a medical van and then for an ambulance after feeling Stringer's back and pulse, but Zamberletti testified that it wasn't until after he arrived at the hospital that he heard the word "heatstroke" in relation to Stringer.
Stringer died at about 1:50 a.m. the next day.
Zamberletti, head trainer Chuck Barta and Osterman all said in depositions that the Vikings gave trainers little formal instruction on heat-related illnesses, according to the documents.
Besides Zamberletti and Barta, also named as defendants in the case are the Vikings, then-head coach Dennis Green; then-offensive line coach Mike Tice; Dr. W. David Knowles of the Mankato Clinic, who was in charge of medical care on the field at the time; and the Mankato Clinic.
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)