It was a hot summer day in August of 2013 when Towson University offensive lineman Gavin Class collapsed on the field during football practice. His body temperature had risen to 108 degrees, causing his heart to stop and his liver to fail.

Class underwent 14 surgeries at the University of Maryland Medical Center, including a liver transplant. Despite the near-fatal experience and being barred from the team, Class wanted to play football again and began training last year with the intention of returning this season. The university, worried about the possible increased risk of further heatstroke incidents, told Class he would not be allowed to return to the team, and in May, Class filed a lawsuit against the school claiming disability discrimination.

Last week, a federal judge ordered Towson to allow Class to rejoin the team and participate in practices, citing Class’s heatstroke as a disability, a groundbreaking ruling, according to Class's lawyer, Andrew Dansicker

“This is the first case in the country, that we're aware of, where a federal judge has ordered a university to allow an athlete to play any sport against the decision of the university — and the first case where a judge has ruled that heatstroke is a disability,” Dansicker said.

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Judge Richard D. Bennett ruled none of the accommodations Class has asked for -- which include high-tech protective abdominal padding -- would strain Towson’s manpower or resources. Bennett wrote in his ruling, “The evidence at the hearing [Tuesday] indicated that Class is at no increased risk [of heatstroke] if his requested accommodations are provided.”

Additionally, Class would swallow a “thermometer pill” prior to each practice, which allows a trainer to wave a hand-held monitor over his abdomen every five to 10 minutes to measure his core body temperature. Class’s family has said they will pay for the padding and the pill.

Towson University plans to appeal the decision, saying in a statement, "After thoroughly reviewing the judge's decision and conferring with our colleagues in the Maryland Attorney General's office, we have decided to appeal the ruling. We expect to file a formal appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. As an institution, our highest priority is the safety and well-being of our students. This decision to appeal is consistent with that core value."

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Despite the university’s objections, Class can’t wait to get back onto the field and is “ecstatic.” He said after the ruling, he sent “a big text [message] about it” to his teammates, with whom he planned to celebrate with that night.

Should Gavin Class be allowed to play football again?
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