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Archive for Monday, September 5, 2005

Wood: Meier’s ailment a mystery

September 5, 2005

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In July, after the tragic death of Missouri University football player Aaron O'Neal, I went on a pursuit for information about what Kansas University does to protect its student-athletes from potential health hazards.

Dr. Larry Magee, KU's director of sports medicine, reeled off a lengthy list of procedures for incoming freshmen to ensure that they're healthy and ready for Division One athletics.

"The returns aren't very much," he admitted at the time. "You don't find a whole lot. But we thought, 'We have an opportunity to do it, and as hard as these athletes have to work, it's just something we should do.'"

Well, they found something with freshman quarterback Kerry Meier. KU coach Mark Mangino revealed as much - and not much else - after Saturday's game, saying a problem was found during "advanced medical screening."

Medical issues always are hush-hush around the football program, but Mangino took it a step further regarding Meier's, asking media and fans to leave the situation alone.

"His family and Kerry both would appreciate their privacy on this matter," he said. "We'll keep you posted as things develop."

If family members indeed want to keep this on the down-low, they've got a federal law protecting them - not to mention Mangino's policy that probably would have silenced it anyway.

By now, college sports fans are accustomed to the word HIPAA - short for Health Information Portability and Accountability Act. It's a government ruling stating that universities must ask student-athletes to sign a waiver before their health information can be released to the media or anyone not in the medical field.

The Meiers are well aware of how to deal with attention - all four of the sons have played NCAA football, and the oldest, Shad, is a tight end for the NFL's New Orleans Saints. During Kerry's recruitment, the Meiers played it closer to the vest than most families do, not revealing much until an oral commitment was made. Chances are, they'll do it again in this case.

When I talked to Magee about six weeks ago, he gave me insight as to what exactly is sought out in the "advanced screening" that eventually detected Meier's problem.

Among the procedures done on all incoming freshmen and junior-college transfers are: a standard physical; a lengthy questionnaire about health history (both individual and family); a blood test for, among other things, sickle-cell disease; and a cardiac screening to detect heart murmurs and other cardiovascular ailments.

Carefully choosing his words, Mangino said Meier underwent a "partial procedure" and that another procedure was upcoming. He'll be out at least this week and maybe longer. Mangino declined to say much else, other than to assure fans that "he's going to be fine."

Meier wasn't one of four quarterbacks to suit up in pregame Saturday. He instead was in an upstairs booth with assistant coaches, perhaps getting a bird's-eye view of defensive formations and blitz packages he could face at the Division One level in the near future.

How near that future is, though, will remain a mystery for now.

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