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Board OKs settlement in death of Frostburg football player

The Board of Public Works approved a settlement Wednesday in a lawsuit brought by the parents of a Frostburg State University football player who died of head injuries suffered on the practice field.

Maryland will pay $50,000 to a foundation named for Derek Sheely, a 22-year-old fullback who collapsed in 2011 after preseason drills and died six days later following massive brain swelling. The suit contended he died as a result of "second impact syndrome," in which someone receives a blow to the head shortly after a previous concussion.

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The payment is part of a "total settlement" with Sheely's family involving the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the manufacturer and distributor of the helmet Sheely wore, assistant attorney general John Kuchno told the board.

The player's parents, Kristen and Kenneth Sheely of Germantown, sued those defendants along with three former Frostburg employees — two coaches and an assistant trainer. The Attorney General's Office represented the former state employees.

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The Sheelys have said their hope was that the lawsuit would bring about changes that would make college athletics safer.

A lawyer for the Sheelys referred questions about the NCAA settlement to that organization. Christian Word, a lawyer for the NCAA, said it was not yet prepared to disclose the terms.

The state's settlement involved more than just a payment. Frostburg State, while not a defendant, agreed to memorialize Sheely and increase awareness of the dangers of concussions.

The university released a statement saying it would retire Sheely's uniform number, display his jersey on campus and create a full-tuition scholarship in Sheely's name.

It will also hold an annual fundraiser for the Derek Sheely Foundation, which works to raise awareness of the dangers of concussions.

Along with the NCAA and the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Frostburg said it will work with the foundation to stage a symposium on reducing the risk of catastrophic injuries for student-athletes.

Stephen J. Nolan, a lawyer for the Sheelys, said the foundation has already distributed 8,000 concussion awareness kits at colleges. He said the settlement will enable the foundation to step up its activities.

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