The state Medical Examiner’s office said Tuesday the former University of Tulsa linebacker who died in an unsanctioned church boxing match in September died from sudden exertion due to complications of Sickle Cell Trait.
George Clinkscale III, a father of two young children, died at a hospital in the early hours of Sept. 22 following Guts Church’s Fight Night VI. Clinkscale fought in the unsanctioned fight’s final match and reportedly suffered from cramping and severe pain after the fight, witnesses said.
As lawmakers work on ways to change state laws to provide stricter penalties and oversight on unsanctioned boxing matches in the state, Clinkscale’s family are pursuing a civil lawsuit filed in Tulsa District Court against Guts Church and its owners, Bill and Sandy Scheer, according to court documents.
The Clinkscale family lawyer, Trevor Henson of Bodenhamer and Levinson law firm, said the Medical Examiner’s cause of death doesn’t damage the suit, which alleges the owners of Guts Church were negligent in holding a boxing match without proper medical personnel at ringside.
“That’s kind of what we figured all along,” Henson said. “George had had these sickle cell attacks many times while playing for TU. Trainers know how to treat it, but you have to treat it immediately.”
The full autopsy report will not completed for several weeks, according to a spokeswoman with the ME’s office.
Sickle Cell Trait differs from Sickle Cell Disease in many ways, including severity of the symptoms and risks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
Henson said if Guts Church officials had followed Oklahoma boxing laws, they would have had a pre-fight physical and a doctor at ringside.
Guts Church officials and the church’s attorney, Derrick Teague of Jennings Cook and Teague law firm in Oklahoma City, did not return calls requesting comment.
Guts Church’s ministry began in 1992 and has had a focus on reaching youth, according to the organization’s website.
Henson said Clinkscale signed some form of medical waiver, but he has not seen the actual document yet.
Even if Clinkscale signed a waiver indicating he had a clean bill of health, Henson said he doesn’t believe that signs his rights away.
“You can’t agree to negligence ... Guts Church knew this thing should have been sanctioned,” Henson said. “I don’t think that Guts Church went to any extent to explain to the participants any part of what the waiver consisted of.”
A doctor at ringside would have been able to talk with Clinkscale before he went unconscious several minutes after the fight and was taken to the hospital, Henson said.
“Had they fulfilled their duty as required by the state, George Clinkscale would have survived,” Henson said.
Read more in Wednesday's Tulsa World.
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