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High School Sports Safety Law Passes Kentucky Legislature But Could Have Done Much More

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A bill requiring all high school coaches to complete a 10-hour sports safety course and pass an exam before the 2009-2010 school year was passed this week by the Kentucky legislature, but not before important safety provisions were strippped from the bill.

The legislation, if signed by Kentucky governor Steve Beshear,* would also require the presence of at least one coach with training in emergency planning, heat and cold illnesses, head, neck and facial injuries and first aid at every youth sports practice or game.

Noteworthy, however, is what the bill does not contain.

Deleted from the final bill were provisions that would have required:

What makes the deletions of these provisions so frustrating for me as a youth sports safety advocate is that they are all supported by sound medicine, would provide much greater protection to the nation's high school athletes, and are similar to laws enacted elsewhere.

In requiring that ice pools to be available when practices are held in extremely hot weather, the original bill was supported by a study in the February 2009 issue of the Journal of Athletic Training that viewed ice-water or cold-water immersion as the "definitive treatment" for athletes suffering hyperthermia caused by physical exertion or exertional heat stroke (EHS), and a treatment far and away better than any other method in saving heat stroke victims from death.

Likewise, this site has long advocated in favor of AEDs at every youth sports practice or game and shortening or cancelling practices in extremely hot weather based on the NOAA heat index or high levels of ozone or fine particulate matter pollution.

Ironically, the original legislation was introduced in response to the heat stroke death in 2008 of 15-year-old Max Gilpin, which led to the indictment of his coach, David Jason Stinson, on a charge of reckless homicide in the death.

It is a sign of progress, of course, that more states are enacting laws to protect the safety of young athletes, like the bill on sports concussions that is awaiting the governor's signature in Washington State.

I guess I should view the glass as half full. But I can't help but feel that the glass is still half empty.

* Update: on March 25, 2009 Governor Beshear signed the bill into law.