Seven weeks after the death of starting Oklahoma linebacker Austin Box, his family has released a report of the state medical examiner's toxicology test results to the media. Five prescription painkillers (oxymorphone, morphine, hydrocodone, hydromorphone and oxycodone) were found in Box's system at the time of his death, according to the findings received by The Oklahoman. The dots between Box's frequent football injuries and his overdose are connected in the detailed cause of death:
The probable cause of death was identified as "pulmonary edema and aspiration pneumonia" due to central nervous system depression probably caused by "mixed drug toxicity." It listed cardiomegaly (an enlarged heart) and chronic pain history as other significant medical conditions.
The Box family issued a heart-wrenching statement to the press in advance of the release of the toxicology report that reads, in part:
Our son endured many injuries during the last seven years of his life, most of them required surgery. The last was the most frightening for him. In August of the 2010 season, he had a disc rupture in his back, and he lost the feeling in his left foot. We were certain his career was over. As always though, he battled back when he saw the team needed him. Willing his battered body back to the field where only the most elite do battle. It is with much sadness; we look back and see that recently Austin had turned to other methods of managing his pain. Methods that we hope if others are employing, they will see this tragic accident as a message and think about the consequences. Our greatest regret is that Austin did not feel he could share his pain with those who loved him, and those he touched. He chose to suffer in silence rather than to feel he let someone down, or hurt his family.
Our sincere condolences to the Box family and the Oklahoma football community. Austin is being remembered today at SB Nation's Crimson and Cream Machine.
Audio of the 911 call reporting Austin Box's death, has been made available via this story by the Tulsa World. J.T. Cobble, the son of Box's high school coach, placed the call from his home. While making the call, Cobble didn't sound frantic, but was clearly dismayed and described himself as "a little freaked out" while trying to help Box.
When the 911 operator answered his call, Cobble identified the unresponsive person as Box, describing him as "a guy who stayed with me last night," adding that "he takes pain pills." The operator walked Cobble through checking for a pulse, checking for breathing and performing compressions.
A police officer arrived on the scene as Cobble worked to try and revive Box, at which point the operator hung up, turning the situation over to the officer on the scene.
While a medical says no official cause of death is likely to be announced in the Austin Box case before Friday, emerging details indicate the Oklahoma starting middle linebacker's death could be drug-related.
CBS' Brett McMurphy has confirmed with El Reno police that the death was a "probable overdose," and the police report obtained by Oklahoma City NBC affiliate KFOR would seem to bear that out. "Controlled dangerous substances" are mentioned in the category section of the report, and the officer's report indicates that when police arrived on the scene, Box was being given CPR by John Cobble III, identified by KFOR's Scott Hines as the son of Box's former high school coach. The officer goes on to state that "Cobble told me when I entered the room Box was in he believed he had overdosed." Hines also reports that narcotics were seized from the house.
The news of Oklahoma Sooners LB Austin Box's death has set off rapid speculation as to what caused the 22-year-old to unexpectedly pass away. But it sounds like fans and supporters may have to wait at least until Friday to find out the official story on what happened. As the Tulsa World reports:
A spokeswoman at the medical examiner's office said no cause of death is known and it's doubtful one will be known Thursday.
As we saw with Aaron Douglas' shocking death the week prior and pretty much every other tragedy of this kind, it can be easy for people to put a little too much stock in rumors in a situation like this before facts make their way out. For now, the only thing we definitely know is that Oklahoma has lost a student-athlete.
Bob Stoops is reportedly out of the country on vacation this week, but other Oklahoma University officials have already released brief statements of condolence on the death of Sooners middle linebackerAustin Box, who passed away Thursday at the age of 22. Via The Oklahoman, here's university president David L. Boren:
The University family is deeply saddened by the tragic death of student-athlete Austin Box. Our hearts go out to his family and friends.
And from Sooners athletic director Joe Castiglione:
Austin Box will be greatly missed by his many friends and teammates in the Athletics Department and all across campus. Grief counseling is being made available to members of the team and his close friends.
SB Nation's Oklahoma blog, Crimson And Cream Machine, calls this a "Tragic, tragic day for the Oklahoma football program and the entire Sooner Nation."
Oklahoma City's NBC News affiliate, KFOR, is reporting that starting Sooners middle linebacker Austin Box has died, citing the local medical examiner's confirmation. Phil Cross, a reporter with OKC's FOX affiliate, has a statement from the El Reno, Okla. police department, which tells us that Box was found unresponsive at an El Reno residence, and taken to a local medical facility before being transferred to Mercy Hospital in Oklahoma City. No further information is given on the cause of his condition, and an investigation into his death is reportedly underway.
The senior from Enid topped the Sooner's post-spring practice depth chart at MLB, heading up a young class at the position along with fellow senior Travis Lewis. Box battled multiple injuries over the course of his playing career in Norman, but was cited by SB Nation's Oklahoma blog in a spring camp roundup as a crucial impact player, even when hobbled:
When the guy is one the field he just has a knack for making plays. He brings one of those indescribable aspects to the defense where he isn't the best athlete out there, but when there is a play to be made you can pretty much guarantee he's going to be right there.