The University of the Cumberlands, a private Christian university in Kentucky, recently announced a settlement of more than $14 million over the death of a student wrestler, Grant Brace. The announcement was made through a statement released by the university, which detailed the terms of the settlement.
Brace was a junior from Louisville, Tennessee, who died from heat stroke on August 31, 2020, just hours after wrestling practice. The settlement includes an agreement for the university to participate in a heat-illness training program and to raise awareness of heat-related injuries.
According to news reports citing the lawsuit filed by Brace’s family, his death was “tragic and entirely avoidable.” Brace had been diagnosed with narcolepsy and ADHD and was prescribed Adderall, which required him to maintain hydration. During the wrestling team’s first training day of the season, Brace completed several sprints up and down a steep hill, but eventually sat down from exhaustion. The coach threatened to kick Brace off the wrestling team, prompting him to run up the hill again. Later, Brace was heard saying “I’m done. I can’t do this anymore.”
At this point, Brace begged for water, but the coaches allegedly did not provide any or contact the trainer or emergency medical personnel. Brace left the area and attempted to drink from an outdoor water fountain that was not working. He also tried to enter a nearby building, but was unable to do so. Eventually, he collapsed, and approximately 45 minutes later, the coaches found him dead with his hands clenched in the grass and dirt.
The university said in its statement that it believed it could defend the claims made in the lawsuit but chose to settle to “respect the Brace family’s tremendous loss.” The safety of students and athletes is a top priority, it added, and the university “welcomes the opportunity to work with the Brace family’s consultant to ensure it is providing the safest environment possible for student-athletes in all sports.”
The tragedy of Grant Brace’s death highlights the importance of ensuring the safety and well-being of student-athletes during practice and competition, particularly in high-impact sports such as wrestling. Heat-related injuries can be devastating and even deadly, and it is incumbent upon coaches, trainers, and other staff members to be vigilant in monitoring athletes for signs of distress and to take prompt action to address any concerns. The University of the Cumberlands’ decision to settle this case and participate in heat-illness training and awareness-raising is a step in the right direction towards preventing similar tragedies in the future.