Even a Super Athlete is not Immune to Mesothelioma

February 2, 2021  |  Mesothelioma
Even a Super Athlete is not Immune to Mesothelioma

Deadly asbestos cancer can strike anyone who was exposed

Imagine for a moment how physically fit an elite athlete must be in order to excel at professional sports, such as a star National Football League running back or safety. Imagine the rippling muscles, the optimal blood/oxygen ratio, the super-optimized lung function such an athlete must possess in order to achieve and maintain champion status on the gridiron over the duration of a successful football season or career.

Notre Dame’s Lattner: a “bread-and-butter ball carrier”

John Joseph Lattner was just such an athlete. Born in 1932, Johnny Lattner excelled in both football and basketball in high school. He played halfback at the University of Notre Dame from 1950-1953 and won the Heisman Trophy in in his senior year. The two-time All-American also won the Maxwell Award as the best player in college football in both 1952 and 1953. A standout athlete, Lattner was drafted in the first round by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1954, where he was named to the NFL Pro Bowl as a kick- and punt-returner his first year.

Following his first season with the Steelers, Johnny Lattner joined the United States Air Force in 1955 to fulfill a two-year ROTC commitment, where he made a name for himself as a star athlete on the military football team until a knee injury ended his ball-playing days. He went on to lead successful careers as a high school and university football coach, restauranteur, and graphics company vice president.

Mesothelioma does not discriminate

Now imagine a premier athlete like Johnny Lattner felled by mesothelioma, a deadly and aggressive cancer caused by the fibrous mineral asbestos. Hard to believe, isn’t it? But that is exactly what led to Mr. Lattner’s death in 2016 at the age of 83.

Diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2014, Mr. Lattner told investigators he’d likely been exposed to deadly asbestos fibers working at summer construction jobs in the Chicago area while in college. During the 1950s, when Johnny attended the University of Notre Dame, almost every building in Illinois and Indiana (and elsewhere around the country), whether commercial or residential, was constructed using plasters, wall-joint compound, floor tile, popcorn ceiling texture, acoustic ceiling tiles, textured paints, decorative wall paneling, exterior siding and roofing felt which all contained toxic asbestos fibers.

John Lattner’s father, Bill, was a maintenance worker. Maintaining pipes and boilers at schools and commercial buildings insulated with asbestos throughout the 1930s and 1940s meant coming home to his children covered in toxic asbestos dust, which little Johnny likely breathed when greeting his father at the door each day. But those weren’t the only ways that Johnny Lattner might have been exposed to asbestos.

Asbestos pervasive in the Air Force in the 1950s

Mr. Lattner’s two-year stint in the Air Force was also a likely source of his exposure to asbestos. Air Force members were exposed to asbestos in numerous ways. Asbestos blankets served as heat shields around aircraft engines and inside an airplane’s “skin” to keep the cockpit and cargo bay a habitable temperature at high altitudes. Engine valves were made tight using asbestos rope, which was packed around valve stems and into pipe joints to prevent leaks. Hoses and wiring were coated with asbestos insulation to prevent electrical shorts and heat loss. Asbestos-laden adhesives and epoxies were used to seal breaches in aircraft fuselage, wings and tail sections.

Disease shows no mercy

Despite being a star athlete in his younger years and maintaining top physical form throughout his life, mesothelioma showed no mercy to Johnny Lattner. A cruel and aggressive cancer caused only by exposure to asbestos, mesothelioma develops in the lining of the heart, abdomen or lungs and quickly ends the lives of almost all who are diagnosed with the disease. Johnny Lattner lost his battle with mesothelioma in less than two years.

If you are considering filing a lawsuit for your mesothelioma diagnosis, it is important to seek legal counsel as soon as possible. Baron & Budd can help. Contact us online or call us at 855-280-7664 for a confidential evaluation and to learn more about your legal options.

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