Heat-related deaths among high school athletes is a serious and growing problem, although one that has only recently begun to receive widespread public attention. A study by the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research at the University of North Carolina reports that 18 high school athletes suffered from fatal exertional heat stroke between 2005 and 2009, with an additional 19 since 2010. A representative from the Kory Stringer Institute (KSI) a sports safety research and advocacy organization located at the University of Connecticut, stated that, since 2004, the yearly average of high school students suffering from fatal heat stroke is almost twice that of the preceding decades. Although there have been many efforts at the state and local level to combat these traffic deaths, a recent study by KSI and the National Football League (NFL) found that the implementation of policies to prevent heat-related deaths is far from uniform.
The study at issue shows that many individual states are not fully implementing key safety guidelines to protect athletes from potentially life-threatening conditions. The Youth Sports Safety Alliance, an organization representing more than 100 groups, issued the guidelines, which call for access to health care professionals, better-trained coaches, and up-to-date equipment. The state-by-state survey showed that North Carolina had the most comprehensive health and safety practices, adhering to 79% of the guidelines, followed by Kentucky at 71%. At the bottom were Colorado at 23% and California at 26%. Those scores are based on a state meeting the best practice guidelines addressing the four major causes of sudden death in high school athletes: cardiac arrest, traumatic head injuries, exertional heat stroke, and exertional sickling occurring in athletes with the sickle cell trait.
Dr. Douglas Casa, of KSI, says that progress is slow because most states only make changes to their safety guidelines after a tragedy. In his field of expertise (exertional heat stroke), Casa notes that states that have adopted significant changes to their heat acclimatization practices have not suffered any deaths from exertional heat stroke. To prevent death from EHS, best practices come down to three things:
- Prevention: heat acclimatization, modifying work/rest ratios based on environmental conditions, hydration, body cooling, etc.
- Recognition: being aware and acting quickly
- Treatment: cold water immersion and cool first/transport second
Casa adds that the monetary cost of reaching the desired preventative measures is not high. “To be honest, you could get to 90 percent implementation with very little cost and effort,” he says. “Spending probably less than $5,000 per school could get you close to 90 points. You also would probably need a two-day meeting with the key state association officials to refine the details of the changes. It’s a matter of convincing people that these issues are important
and that they need attention.”
Contact an Atlanta Personal Injury Attorney
If your child has been injured because his or her school is not following sports safety guidelines, you may be able to recover through a personal injury action. Contact the attorneys at Slappey & Sadd for a free consultation to discuss your case by calling 404.255.6677. We serve the entire state of Georgia, including the following locations: Rossville, Loganville, and Dalton.