Does South Carolina Need to Do More to Protect High School Athletes From Heat?

Just weeks ago, the River Bluff High School community was left devastating when a 14-year-old football player died just before his 15th birthday after collapsing in the school locker room. He’d just spent two hours and 15 minutes training outside in oppressive heat. The teen, standing 6-foot-2, was a defensive tackle in reportedly great health. Although the sophomore made it through practice, he started to stumble near the end, according to The State. He collapsed in the locker room, where his coaches gave him CPR and used a defibrillator. He was rushed to a nearby hospital and pronounced dead. football

Although the autopsy results were inconclusive, some questioned whether proper safety protocol for outdoor practices were followed. At the least, the coroner opined that external environmental factors – namely heat and humidity – probably contributed to the stress caused by strenuous physical exertion. The school and coaches insist players are encouraged to let them know when they don’t feel well, to constantly drink water and sports drinks – both before and during practices – and to take rest breaks. Coaches, though, need to be mindful of the temperature, safety experts say, and take that into account when determining how hard to push their players.

On the day in question, school officials say coaches were in fact using a wet-bulb device. For those unfamiliar, it’s the same kind used by drill sergeants training U.S. Army recruits outdoors. The devices measure not just the temperature, but the humidity and the radiated heat from the surface and sun. These readings allow the sergeants – or in this case, coaches – to adjust the training schedule, making more allowances for water, shedding heavy equipment or clothing and more frequent rest breaks in the shade. When conditions are too severe, conditioning can be canceled. 

There are some schools in South Carolina that routinely use the devices, including The University of South Carolina. It’s also required by the state of Georgia in all its high schools. However, it’s not mandated before practices in South Carolina. Neither is it required by the S.C. High School League. A representative of the league said he was unsure how many schools use the wet-bulb devices or whether they could be mandated in the future.

Anderson injury lawyers know there are some obstacles, namely the costs of purchasing the devices and training coaches how to use them. Still, a subcommittee is reviewing a proposal to require them and may make a recommendation to absorb that cost. In the end, it could prove a cost-saver if it prevents the district from incurring liability from the preventable death of a student athlete.

In Georgia, schools are required to buy the devices, which range in cost from $150 to $300. Schools that don’t buy them – or don’t use them before each practice and game – could face a fine of between $500 to $1,000, even if no students fall ill as a result.

As those schools who have come to rely on it note, it’s not going to 100 percent prevent all problems. However, it has the potential to help protect athletes in a lot of different scenarios.

Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:

Is SC doing enough to protect high school athletes from the heat? Sept. 9, 2016, By Cassie Cope, The State

More Blog Entries:

Benda v. Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City – Suing for Child Injury at School, Sept. 1, 2016, Anderson Wrongful Death Lawyer Blog

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