Kentucky House lawmakers unanimously passed a bill Friday to require the state's high school coaches to complete first aid and sports safety training on athlete heat stroke and cold emergencies, a measure inspired by the death of a teenage football player at a sweltering summer practice.
National experts gave mixed reviews to Kentucky's sports safety
measure, which if signed into law by Gov. Steve Beshear would
require every high school coaching staff to have at least one
member with safety training roaming practice fields and game
sidelines by the start of the next school year.
The measure, spurred on by the death of high school lineman Max
Gilpin, cleared the House 93-0 Friday and the Senate 38-0 a day
"The intent is to give the coaches the tools they need to keep
our students safe," Democratic Rep. Joni Jenkins said after
sponsoring the bill.
She said it was designed to give coaches greater know-how in
averting any emergency and better skills to deal with one before
trained medical help can be found.
"They'll be able to recognize dangerous situations before they
become tragic. And they'll know to act immediately," she said.
Beshear spokesman Jay Blanton said the governor will review the
measure before deciding whether to sign it.
Gilpin, a sophomore at Pleasure Ridge Park High School in
Louisville, died after collapsing in practice last August and
arriving at a hospital with a 107-degree temperature, authorities
The 15-year-old's coach, David Jason Stinson, has pleaded not
guilty to reckless homicide in an unusual case of a coach being
charged criminally with a player's death.
Gilpin's death certificate showed he died of septic shock,
multiple organ failure and complications from heat stroke, three
days after working out for two to three hours in temperatures that
reportedly felt like 94 degrees. No autopsy was conducted.
The case alarmed Kentucky residents and sent shock waves through
high school athletic programs nationwide after a rash of player
deaths reported in high school programs around the country last
From 1995 through 2008, there were 39 heat stroke cases in all
levels of football that resulted in death, according to a report
compiled by Frederick Mueller at the University of North Carolina
for the American Football Coaches Association in February 2009.
Mueller, a professor specializing in sport administration, said
Friday that Kentucky's proposal was a "good idea," and said more
states are now taking a closer look at athlete safety.
But Douglas J. Casa, director of athletic training education at
the University of Connecticut, said that the concept is good but
the bill doesn't go far enough. "No course is going to properly
prepare them (coaches) to deal with the emergencies they're going
to have to deal with on the field," he said.
Casa said schools offering sports programs should be required to
hire athletic trainers - something some say will be difficult
because it requires more money.
Kentucky schools are not required to have certified athletic
trainers, though the Kentucky High School Athletic Association
strongly encourages them to hire trainers. The association issued a
statement lauding the bill for putting an increased spotlight on
safety and ensuring any risks to players are minimized.