High School Football

Bill filed to protect student athletes

The case of a Kentucky football coach indicted in the heat-related death of his player has resulted in legislation that would require high school coaches to take more precautions on hot days.

Coaches would have to provide an icy pool at every outdoor practice, athletic activity and sporting event on days when the outside temperature is 94 or higher, according to a bill filed Tuesday by Rep. Joni Jenkins, D-Louisville.

The bill would mandate that all coaches be trained in the use of an automated external defibrillator, a piece of equipment that would have to be on site at every activity and event to resuscitate players.

"This was my attempt to start the conversation about what precautions should be in place for student athletes and let coaches know what is expected of them," said Jenkins. "We need a statewide standard that everyone needs to comply with."

Offensive lineman Max Gilpin, 15, died Aug. 23 of complications from heatstroke, three days after collapsing at a practice for Louisville's Pleasure Ridge Park football team.

A Jefferson County grand jury indicted Gilpin's head coach, David Jason Stinson, in January on a charge of reckless homicide. Stinson has pleaded not guilty.

Jenkins' bill incorporates the advice of Doug Casa, who led a national task force on heat illnesses in 2003 and says that a sturdy child's pool filled with ice is the best way to prevent deaths.

Casa, director of athletic training education at the University of Connecticut, told the Herald-Leader in a January interview that no deaths from heatstroke have been reported when someone is placed in a cold bath right after collapse.

"It's probably a pretty sound idea," Scott County High School Football Coach Jim McKee said Wednesday about the pools. "Obviously, everybody tries to be as proactive as possible to ensure that they are doing everything they can in regard to the health of every student athlete."

It's not law in Kentucky yet, but something similar to the pool is already used by many high school, college and professional teams across the nation, including Lexington's Henry Clay High School football team.

Henry Clay Coach Sam Simpson said he has voluntarily provided something that resembles a trough or a pool for two or three years. Simpson said he's never had to use it in an emergency, but players often try it on a warm day "just to cool off." Simpson said he also keeps an automated external defibrillator on site.

Madisonville physician James Bowles, who heads the medical committee that makes recommendations to the Kentucky High School Athletic Association, says his group will discuss the idea of the pool. A meeting planned for late January was canceled because of the ice storm.

KHSAA rules require that coaches have CPR training, a provision in Jenkins' bill as well.

KHSAA rules require that players have a pre-season physical and restrict practice when the heat index is higher than 95. Practice and play are banned when the heat index reaches 105. Coaches must keep a daily weather log showing heat indexes and submit it to the KHSAA annually. Water breaks are mandated at certain temperatures.

Under House Bill 383, the KHSAA and the state Board of Education could not adopt policies regarding the pool and the automated external defibrillator that were contrary to those set forth in Jenkins' bill. Under the legislation, local school boards would be immune from civil liability if coaches used CPR or the defibrillator.