Deaths for high school athletes are on the rise as outdoor temperatures and lack of water breaks continue. At least three heat-related deaths on practice fields have been reported in the past week, as high school football season nears. Two Georgia high-school football players and a Texas coach have died in the scorching temperatures.
In addition, four high school players in Arkansas were hospitalized for dehydration as temperatures hit a record-high 114 degrees on Wednesday. In Kansas City, Missouri, a 28-year-old Kansas City, Missouri, endurance runner died of a heatstroke.
“We think it was the worst week in the last 35 years in terms of athlete deaths,” said Dr. Douglas Casa, chief operating officer of the Korey Stringer Institute of Health Medicine at the University of Connecticut and author of the book “Preventing Sudden Death in Sports and Physical Activity.”
There are no national rules to protect high school athletes from sudden death due to extreme hot weather. But most state school athletic associations put out guidelines for districts to follow regarding dealing with extreme heat and other severe weather problems.
Among the recommendations the association makes are regular water breaks, and to hit the scales at the beginning and end of each practice. If a player’s weight drops 3% or more, it’s considered a sign of dehydration; losses of 5% are seen as an indicator of heat-related illness.
“It’s not like the NCAA, where they mandate rules and the colleges have to follow them,” he said. “The high school association can make some recommendations, but they don’t have any power or teeth to have those policies actually implemented.”
“Heat strokes are completely survivable,” he said. All that may be needed is an immersion in a cold-water tub or pool. An athlete who is immediately cooled can survive, but many coaches call 911, he said. Casa said while they wait for an ambulance the brain and vital organs continue to cook in the heat. The body can only withstand such extreme conditions for about 30 minutes.
If you feel you or someone you love has suffered from heat illness, contact the legal experts at Casey Bryant. We’ll be happy to provide you with a free consultation to discuss with you whether or not you have a case.