Former TCU wide receiver Kolby Listenbee claims that he was pressured to play through injury in a lawsuit filed against the school, head coach Gary Patterson, athletic director Chris Del Conte, and the Big 12, among others.
Listenbee was injured in his senior season while making a touchdown catch in a September 2015 game against Southern Methodist. A few days later, a doctor at the campus sports medicine clinic diagnosed him with osteitis pubis—a condition involving inflammation of cartilage and muscle in the groin area—which was later backed up by a second, off-campus doctor. Listenbee missed the next two games but says he was “forced to practice” during that time. He returned to the campus doctor after those two weeks and told her that he was still in pain. However, he was medically cleared for full practices, which made his availability a matter for head coach Gary Patterson, assistant coach Rusty Burns, and former offensive coordinator Doug Meacham.
Listenbee played that weekend “in immense pain and with limited mobility.”He did not miss another game that season, getting regular steroid injections—an average of three per game—to help manage his pain.
The lawsuit claims that eight to twelve weeks of rest and rehab are standard treatment for osteitis pubis, as opposed to the three weeks that Listenbee had. Injectable steroids are a possibility, as a last resort. The NCAA Sports Medicine Handbook is cited here:
Injectable corticosteroids should be administered only after more conservative treatments, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents, rest, ice, ultrasound and various treatment modalities, have been exhausted. Repeated corticosteroid injections at a specific site should be done only after the consequences and benefits of the injections have been thoroughly evaluated.
In the suit, Listenbee claims that pressure to return to the field began as soon as he was hurt. In the game where he was initially hurt, he was carried to the athletic trainers’ table because he was struggling to walk, but he was asked to go back in almost immediately:
Patterson, Meacham, and Burns personally told Kolby “to get back out on the field.” Kolby refused as he was barely able to walk... Patterson was visibly upset by Kolby’s decision.
Until he returned to play a few weeks later, Listenbee claims that he was “continually harassed, humiliated, pressured, and threatened” by his coaches. He says that he was called “soft” and told he was “faking it” in front of the whole team and that he was threatened with being dismissed not just from the football team, but from TCU. He was also told that if he did not return soon, the coaches would tell NFL scouts that he wasn’t tough enough to go pro because he had faked his injury. After a few weeks, Listenbee decided to return to the field even though he knew he wasn’t close to being healed, the suit claims.
Listenbee’s repeated steroid injections through the rest of the season caused sports hernias, which required surgery a month before the NFL Combine. He was drafted in 2016 and signed a four-year rookie contract with the Bills, but he never played for them—he was placed on the non-football injury list before the start of the season, and a few months later, he had surgery to insert a metal plate that fused his pelvic bones together. He was waived in 2017 and signed with the Colts’ practice squad last month.
The full petition, filed yesterday in Dallas County Court, can be read below: