Monday, March 9, 2009

HB 383 & the KHSAA

First, as someone who has been involved and coached high school football in Kentucky for over 20 years let me say that this is an important issue but it has been addressed in the wrong way by the wrong folks. I can understand and appreciate Legislators wanting to step up to the plate after the death of a football player. One should not just jump to conclusions as everyone across the Commonwealth has done. The Courier Journal has finally given another side of story in which they had pretty near convicted Coach Stinson without a trial. I'm sure if the CJ had their way we would all be picking daisies and playing soccer. I will make a few points then I will editorialize.

HB-383 -Nothing really wrong with this bill except that it assumes that coaches are stupid and there are no procedures or knowledge regarding heat stroke in place. Most schools have a whirl pool or access to ice to cool a player down. Some schools have defibrillators, we have one at Hopkinsville High and CPR covers how to use one. They are expensive and even having one on site may mean taking up to 10 minutes to get it. Our practice fields and facilities are spread out. Point being a coach is better off dialing 911.

Having been a volunteer and a para-professional for many years I will tell you what other coaches will not. Were not Doctors or trainers. If coaches are honest they will tell you if a situation goes south they are going to dial 911. Once again let me say it, when in doubt dial 911. Its what they do. A couple hours of CPR are not going to get the job done and no coach regardless of mandatory training is going to do something that could maybe worsen an athletes medical situation. If a coach does not have an ATC on the field dial 911.

This is not an issue with some schools. We are lucky enough in the Pennyrile to have ATC's working at our schools to handle situations. Dr. David Bealle and Western Kentucky Sports Medicine along with Trover Clinic provide certified trainers to our schools. Many of these trainers have extensive backgrounds ranging from experience with Division 1 schools to professional and minor league organizations. We have whirl pools and ice machines so that is not an issue.

The responsibility for being prepared is two fold. It has been my experience that athletes tend to have more trouble with the heat now days as to say 20 years ago. Why is that? I have no formal study to present but common sense tells me that fewer kid work outside than they used to. Kids are told over and over not to come from the air conditioner at home straight to football practice. I think more kids are on the computer these days and playing video games and are less acclimated to the heat. Athletes are told over and over to hydrate them self during the day. We provide sports drinks before practice to help hydrate them. Every athlete is different when it comes to the heat and every athlete has a personal responsibility to make sure he or she is hydrated.

The old philosophy which I grew up in of withholding water went out the window 15 years ago. If kids are tired and dehydrated then they don't listen, learn or execute. Coaches have practice for purpose!! Now, the end of practice is the time to push athletes and keep them in shape as well as build on stamina. Coaches intentionally push kids during the sprints for good reason. Coaches intentionally push and say harsh things to get a desired result. It's not meant to sound nice or be fun. Football coaches are not soccer coaches. A player who is not in good physical condition is also more likely to get injured. (The fact that soccer parents heard the coach say mean things, give me a break. If I had a dollar for every time I told a player that I was going to kill him before they got off the's coach talk people.) The reality is that it is hot in August and September and you can't walk off the field or stop the game because its hot. Granted referees do call water breaks at their discretion in the early season.

Most of these preventative measures are common sense and used by any coach that I know. Why this issue just came up and why everyone decided to jump on the band wagon makes me wonder. I don't remember all this happening when a Henderson Co. football player died a couple of years ago.

These are tragic situations and there is never anything wrong with looking at what we might do better to prevent situations like this from occurring again.

What we should do first is to look at what is already in place.

Although I have not heard one single word in the media about what that is and while I'm no big fan of the KHSAA; I can say that this is one time they have been doing the right things and have the proper precautions in place but yet we have not heard them say anything in their defense or the defense of football coaches. So, I will do their work for them.

KHSAA requires that the heat index be taken each day,documented and kept on file for periodic review by them. KHSAA has policy and requirements for doing this as well as written policy as to the level of activity that can be conducted when the heat index is at a certain level.


KHSAA provides links and brochures regarding heat illness on their website. They also provide links to educational material on the issue. I down loaded one called PLAYING HOT QUIZ QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS.

KHSAA provides at their web site all the up to date research concerning heat illness and fluid replacement. One such paper I read at the site:NATIONAL ATHLETIC TRAINERS' ASSOCIATION POSITION STATEMENT: FLUID REPLACEMENT FOR ATHLETES.

I won't argue that it never hurts to have more training for coaches on this issue. As coaches like to say its all about the reps. Yes, it would be nice for all football teams to have their own whirl pool, ice machine and heat index gauge but it is probably not practical every where. What is practical is good common sense and most coaches have that. I would suggest that we use what the KHSAA association has provided and require every school to show as part of continuing education like CPR one of the many videos out there on Heat illness and fluid replacement.

I believe the KHSAA has the proper procedures in place and believe coaches are trained adequately. The KHSAA might consider offering up some continued education on fluid replacement and heat illness just as a constant reminder during the rules clinics. I'm not sure there is a lesson to be learned here other than sometimes tragic things occur on and off the playing fields. Jumping to conclusions and trying to make criminals out of football coaches is just plain crazy.

No comments: