New Jersey now leads the nation in safety for high school student-athletes as determined by the adoption of the most health and safety policies, according to the latest analysis by the Korey Stringer Institute at the University of Connecticut.

Following New Jersey are Massachusetts, North Carolina, Kentucky and Georgia. Three of those states — North Carolina, Kentucky, and Massachusetts — have had the best high school sport safety programs in the country since the study was first launched in 2017.

Now in its third iteration, the annual state-by-state review takes into account the extent to which the states meet a series of evidence-based best-practice guidelines. It is believed to be the only comprehensive assessment of high school sports and safety policies, rating states on implementing important safety guidelines intended to protect student athletes from heat stroke, sudden cardiac arrest, and other potentially life-threatening conditions that can be prevented.

In the two years since KSI first assessed all 50 states and the District of Columbia on key health and safety policies for high school athletes, 31 states have adopted new policies — and 16 this year alone.

New Jersey and Massachusetts both improved their environmental monitoring policies and now require their member schools to use wet bulb globe temperature as a comprehensive measurement of environmental stresses placed on athletes.

Georgia's policy changes include the requirement of CPR/AED training for all coaches, emergency action plan standards and the mantra "cool first, transport second" for exertional heat stroke treatment.

Additional states that have adopted important new safety policies over the past year include Utah, Oregon, West Virginia and Colorado. Utah improved its safety measures by requiring cold-water immersion and coaching education in sudden death. Oregon, West Virginia and Colorado now require athletic trainers to be licensed in order to practice in the state. 

With more than 7.8 million high school students participating in sanctioned sports each year, the need for comprehensive safety policies and training is critical. Adopting evidence-based safety measures significantly reduces risks, says Douglas Casa, a UConn professor of kinesiology and the CEO of KSI, a national sports safety research and advocacy organization named after a former Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman who died from exertional heat stroke in 2001

"We are excited to see so many positive health and safety policy changes for high school athletes across the nation," Casa stated in a university release. "Many key advocates in states have made strides to push the envelope and make sports safer for those kids — and we are so grateful for their efforts.

"We still have much work to do to get all states to comply with the 2013 best practices recommendations to prevent sudden death in secondary school athletics."

Paul Steinbach is Senior Editor of Athletic Business.