Florida House OKs bill to protect student athletes from heat

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Public schools in Florida would be required to have immediate access to emergency cooling tubs and other life-saving equipment to save student athletes from deadly heat strokes, under legislation approved Wednesday in the state House.

Lawmakers voted unanimously to advance the legislation, which now awaits action by the Florida Senate.

More than 460 student athletes in Florida were treated for exertional heat stroke during the 2017-18 school year, according to state officials.

Florida leads the nation in high school student athlete deaths from exertional heat stroke, with four since 2011.

The most recent heat-related death of a student athlete in Florida occurred in the summer of 2017, when a South Florida 16-year-old, Zach Martin, collapsed during football practice.

His mother, Laurie Giordano, has been lobbying for rules to protect other student athletes.

“I'm incredibly grateful to the House for recognizing it for the being the life-saver that it is,” Giordano said following the vote.

Between 1995 and 2019, 47 high school football players nationwide died from heat stroke or related complications. Nearly all of those fatalities happened during routine practices, according to the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research.

Florida's public schools are not currently required to have life-saving devices and equipment available at the sidelines during practice to respond and prevent heat-related injuries in student athletes. That includes the absence of tubs — or even plastic swimming pools — that can be used to help quickly cool student athletes showing signs of heat stress.

What's more, many coaches and other team personnel lack training on how to recognize exertional heat stroke, or EHS, and how to administer emergency care.

At a minimum, the legislation would require schools to to have containers, such as portable tubs and inexpensive inflatable kiddie pools, that can be filled with cold water to submerge and rapidly cool an overheating student.

Heat strokes are often preventable if immediate treatment is given. Even if heat stroke doesn’t lead to death, prolonged absence of help can produce severe brain damage or other harm internal organs.