Officials Reveal More About
Bakersfield Christian Player's Death

Posted on August 19, 2008, by Maggie Creamer, The Bakersfield Californian

And on what otherwise should have been a joyful first day of school, students and faculty began mourning for would-be junior Patrick Allen.

More details emerged Monday about the death of a Bakersfield Christian High School football player who collapsed at home after practicing in 100-plus degree heat.

“You are stunned,” school President Daniel Cole said. “There is no other way to say it. You are just absolutely stunned. It’s as tragic as things get for kids.”

Allen died Sunday, said Sandy Doucette, spokeswoman for Mercy Hospitals of Bakersfield. Bakersfield Christian officials had reported Allen’s death Friday.

Allen collapsed after football practice Thursday. While he wasn’t sure of the exact details, Cole said he has spoken to Allen’s family about what happened.

Allen mentioned feeling cramps at practice, which started at 4 p.m., Cole said he had heard. Two students who were with Allen after practice, Cole said, reported the cramps intensified on the way home so the three stopped for water.

Allen’s dad might have come and gotten him at that point, Cole said.

At home, Allen rehydrated while watching the Olympics and ate something, Cole said. Paramedics were called after Allen threw up and passed out.

Cole said Allen’s illness may have been heat-related.

“That’s what we believe, but certainly, I’m not a physician, and no one has told me that either,” he said.

The high temperature Thursday was 104 degrees and the average humidity was 25 percent, according to the National Weather Service.

The California Interscholastic Federation recommends that in those types of conditions, practices not start until after 6:30 p.m., said Jim Crichlow, central section commissioner.

They are just recommendations; schools and school districts set their own policies, he said. He hesitated to judge what happened in Allen’s case because he wasn’t there and he doesn’t know about the teen’s underlying health condition.

And, Crichlow said, Bakersfield Christian’s athletics director and football coach is cautious.

Crichlow said CIF recommends coaches and athletes check the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District’s daily air forecast and not practice when it hits “red.”

“Everybody’s instructed to be cautious,” Crichlow said. “These are kids we’re dealing with.”

Taft High School football coach Steve Sprague said he hopes “there’s no finger-pointing.”

“It's no reflection on the athlete, because it could be anyone. It's no reflection on the school, because it could be anywhere and it's no reflection on the coaches, because it's just a numbers game,” he said.

“It's not 100 percent safe, what we do. So the 99 and 98, sometimes something happens.”

He said kids sometimes push themselves too hard and coaches have to make sure they’re eating right and staying hydrated.

Sprague said BCHS coach Doug Barnett watches out for his players.

BCHS football practice continued at 3 p.m. Monday, but Cole said he did not know if it would be a full practice or a team meeting.

The school has a certified trainer on campus every day, Cole said. He said the school offers athletes water breaks about every 10 minutes and has a canopy football players can stand under.

During high temperatures, the team has longer and more breaks, uses minimal equipment, provides access to cold tubs and reduces practice time and workout intensity, according to the school’s football practice guidelines.

Cole said he believes the school has good policies in place.

He said coaches will and constantly are reviewing workout policies to protect athletes.

“You beat yourself up trying to figure out how to do it,” he said. “But that’s why you have protocols in place. That’s why you think these things out ahead of time, and you do the best job you can.”

At the beginning of each season, Cole said coaches have a mandatory meeting with parents to warn them about the dangers of participating in athletics, especially football.

The St. Luke’s Anglican Church will have a private memorial service for family and friends at 9 a.m. Thursday at the parish. Another service will be held at 2 p.m. at BCHS.

Cole said the family has shown tremendous strength and courage. He said Allen’s dad addressed the football team at the hospital on Friday.

The family hopes the team will win the state championship this season because that was Allen’s goal, Cole said.

“It is that mentality, it’s that type of attitude that characterizes certainly the parent’s courage,” he said. “We need to honor them and their son by moving on, and being as courageous as they are.”

— Staff writers Christine Bedell, Emily Hagedorn and Zach Ewing contributed to this report.