Arena Football player dies from injury in game

Lucas was hit, presumed to damage spinal cord

Pro Football

April 11, 2005|By Chris Foster | Chris Foster,LOS ANGELES TIMES

LOS ANGELES - Al Lucas, a lineman for the Los Angeles Avengers, died yesterday afternoon after suffering an apparent spinal cord injury while trying to make a tackle early in the Arena Football League team's game at Staples Center, officials said.

Lucas, 26, was injured on a kickoff return five minutes into the game against the New York Dragons. He was pronounced dead at California Hospital after attempts to revive him at the arena and hospital failed.

He is the first player in the Arena Football League's 20-year history to die during a game. A few NFL players have died shortly after games, but Detroit Lions receiver Chuck Hughes, who suffered a heart attack in the fourth quarter of a 1971 game, is believed to be the only one to die during a game.

Avengers players and staff, as well as Dragons players, were informed of Lucas' death after the game, creating a tearful scene in the corridors outside the locker room, with players and employees leaving the arena dazed by the news.

The 6-foot-1, 300-pound Lucas, who played two seasons (2000-2001) for the NFL's Carolina Panthers, had lowered his head just as he hit ball carrier Corey Johnson and blocker Mike Horacek. Replays appeared to show Horacek's knee hitting Lucas' helmet. Lucas fell to the ground and remained motionless.

As Avengers players knelt in prayer near their bench, and some 11,000 fans looked on, paramedics attended to Lucas for 10 minutes, then immobilized him and removed him from the field. He was treated at the arena for a half hour before he was taken to the hospital, a team spokesman said.

"Al Lucas suffered a presumed spinal cord injury and was brought to California Hospital where attempts to revive him were unsuccessful," Dr. Luga Podesta, the team's physician, said in a statement.

Team officials said they waited to release the information until they notified Lucas' relatives, who were not at the game - reaching them with about four minutes left. Lucas, who was married with a daughter, lived in Macon, Ga.

Los Angeles Times staff writers Sam Farmer and Gary Klein contributed to this article. The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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