Student athlete safety laws going into effect
(Calif.) Although the impending summer heat may be the last thing on the minds of administrators during this rainy season, legal experts are calling on districts to be mindful of upcoming deadlines related to ensuring student athlete remain safe on hot days.
Tom Gauthier and Kyle Raney—both attorneys from the education law firm Lozano Smith—said in a recent news brief, that districts need to acquire at least one automated external defibrillator, or AED, for each school by July 1 to protect student athletes from sudden cardiac arrest.
“School districts and charter schools that offer athletic programs must obtain at least one AED, and create or update a written emergency action plan which describes procedures to be followed in the event of medical emergencies related to athletic activities or events,” Gauthier and Raney wrote. “In addition, school districts and charter schools should review existing policies and procedures regarding training requirements for athletic coaches to ensure that coaches are appropriately trained on identifying and responding to symptoms of heat illness.”
At the very least, they noted, written plans should be posted at all venues and be easily accessible to anyone involved in carrying out the plan.
Former-Gov. Jerry Brown signed two bills last year addressing the dangers children face participating in scholastic sports during the warmer months. One, AB 2800, requires that coaches of high school athletics undergo training that will help them spot the signs and symptoms of heat illness and respond to students who are suffering. The bill, authored by Assemblyman Kansen Chu, D-San Jose, was crafted in response to the death of two student athletes in California last year from heat illness–which can include heat cramps, heat syncope, heat exhaustion and exertional heat stroke.
According to the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heat illness during practice or competition is the leading cause of death among high school athletes in the throughout the country. Data from the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research shows that among high school football players alone, 42 student athletes died of exertional heat stroke between 1995 and 2014.
While football has received the most attention because of the number and severity of exertional heat illnesses, experts have noted that students participating in any high-intensity, long-duration or repeated same-day sports practices and training activities during the summer months or other hot-weather days are at risk.
A separate bill, AB 2009, requires that districts and charters that participate in interscholastic athletics to have at least one AED at each school site by July 1 of this year. That bill also calls on districts to have a written emergency action plan that directs the use of the ADE, and to have adopted policies that protect coaches or trainers from liability for using the life-saving tool.
According to the bill’s author, Assemblyman Brian Maienschein, formerly a Republican from San Diego, 42 young athletes in California died while engaged in physical activity between 2009 and 2011, and among those cases where a cause of death was released, 68 percent were attributed to sudden cardiac arrest.
Studies cited by the American Heart Association have shown that, the chances of survival are close to 90 percent if a deliberator is used within the first minute of collapse, but the odds decrease by 7 percent to 10 percent for each additional minute that passes.
Gauthier and Raney noted that while virtually every coach in California is already trained in the use of AEDs, at most just 80 percent of high schools have an AED, many of which are not available to athletic personnel in during practices.
Additionally, schools must ensure that their AEDs are maintained and regularly tested according to operation and maintenance guidelines set forth by the manufacturer, the American Heart Association, Red Cross and the FDA.