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Naples Daily News (Florida)
The Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) has fumbled many things over the years, but the state's governing body of high school sports took an important first step by mandating heatstroke training to protect the health of our athletes. But it must do more.
Heatstroke kills more athletes in Florida than any other state. Heatstroke led to the death of a Riverdale High School football player in Lee County last year.
Requiring coaches and students to go through training to recognize the signs and symptoms of heatstroke and get athletes immediate help hopefully will get Florida out of the top spot in a life-and-death category.
Throughout the years, Florida has seen athletes suffer because of heatstroke, heat exhaustion and other illnesses brought on by the intense temperatures, especially during the hot summer and fall months.
Riverdale football player Zach Martin-Polsenberg died last summer after a team workout. He didn't get the proper care at the time he was suffering from heatstroke. After her son's death, Laurie Martin Giordano advocated schools have ice tubs at practices and games. Placing an athlete in cold water when body temperatures reach unsafe levels will help save lives. The tubs and the training needed to properly submerge an overheated athlete should be a must. It would have prevented Zach's death.
Unfortunately, when the FHSAA board met recently, members didn't require the tubs, but they should have. That's the next step for the FHSAA, and it should happen sooner than later. Education is fine, but the methods needed to facilitate that education are just as important.
Giordano is understandably upset the FHSAA mandated education but didn't address summer workouts when conditioning is intense and it's easy to be overcome by the heat. "You can't have all these guidelines when our students are practicing on our campuses with our school employees and say, 'Well, we're not going to regulate that.'"
Why change recommendation?
The FHSAA's sports medicine advisory committee unanimously recommended to the board it require schools to have ice tubs and wet-bulb globe thermometers that measure heat stress.
Surprisingly, for the recent meeting, the language was changed from "required" to "strongly recommended" and the board asked for more information before addressing the issue again at its next meeting in June.
Here's the only information the board needs: From 1995 to 2015, exertional heatstroke killed an average of three athletes a year, of all ages, in Florida, according to the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research. Medical professionals know the condition is 100 percent survivable if responded to within five to 10 minutes.
Requiring the tubs and thermometers shouldn't be a tough decision. Delaying action on this any further puts the lives of more athletes at risk.
The board wants to know how many schools have tubs or the thermometers, how many might be needed for multiple sports and what type of medical and athletic training or administrative staff is on hand. How many have the tubs or thermometers doesn't really matter. All schools need them. Athletic trainers or medical staff should be available at all practices, especially outdoor activities.
This life-and-death issue needs continued attention by the FHSAA that doesn't leave the responsibility to individual school districts to make their own rules. In this case, the board needs to tell the school districts that beyond the training, there will be tubs, thermometers and trained medical personnel at athletic activities. This isn't negotiable.
The News-Press and Naples Daily News are part of the USA TODAY NETWORK - Florida.
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