FHSAA aims to protect student-athletes from heat-related illness, deaths

Board decides to 'strongly recommend' Florida high schools use new equipment

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida high schools will be able to decide whether they will use new equipment aimed at reducing the number of heat-related illnesses and deaths that happen during practices.

The Florida High School Athletic Association Board of Directors was set to vote Tuesday morning on a new mandate that would force schools to have life-saving items. The vote was scheduled after a panel recommended that the FHSAA mandate cold immersion tubs and Wetbulb globe thermometers at all high schools across the state. 

But, according to Bob Sefcik, executive director of the Jacksonville Sports Medicine Program, the FHSAA Board chose not to mandate any of the proposed changes related to heat safety. Instead, the board opted to encourage schools use them.

"FHSAA chose to stick with the language that (it) 'strongly recommends' the use of Wetbulb Globe thermometers and cold water immersion tubs for the prevention and treatment of heat stroke," Sefcik told News4Jax Tuesday afternoon.

The equipment aims to reduce the number of heat-related illness and deaths that take place during practices.

It's a problem that is still very common at the high school level. It's usually high school football in which people hear about most of the issues involving heat-related illness. 

BY THE NUMBERS: Duval County Public Schools athletic programs

According to experts, heat-related illness is 100 percent preventable and survivable.

“If we identify somebody that is in heat stroke and get them into cold water immersion within 30 minutes, they will survive," Sefick said. "And that’s important for all of our coaches to know. It’s important for all of our schools to be promoting that."

According to the Jacksonville Sports Medicine Program, 40 percent of injuries reported in high school sports were from the heat. That's why Sefcik spoke to the FHSAA board on Monday about the need for the tools to save lives.

“Sadly, we are in somewhat of a reactionary mode," Sefcik siad. "But definitely, we need to proactively protect and hopefully prevent this from occurring to any other student athletes."

READ MORE: Heat stroke concerns as students head back to school

Sefcik acknowledged that there would have been some challenges if the tools had been mandated, such as funding to make sure that all sports have access to them, even if they practice off-campus.