Looking ahead to the next few days, the weather forecast calls for highs in the 80s to low 90s with high humidity. Thus, it may be worthwhile to look back at two tragedies that occurred in the U.S. last month in hopes of avoiding the same in this area.
On July 21, Oklahoma State basketball player Tyrek Coger, 22, collapsed after 40 minutes of running football stadium stairs in 99-degree heat in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The official cause of death was an enlarged heart. However, it is hard to believe that the intense heat was not a major contributing factor.
On July 28, Johnny Tolbert Jr., 12, passed away in Atlanta. His death came two weeks after he collapsed during a two-hour football practice in 90-plus degree heat.
Media reports out of Georgia indicate that no water breaks were taken during the practice. Worse, apparently no lifesaving measures were attempted during the 40 minutes it took for paramedics to arrive. Worst of all, with the temperature being above 92 degrees when practice started, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports Georgia high school rules would have prohibited a football practice. Unfortunately, Tolbert was playing for a park league team.
That park league may not have been subject to the GHSA rule that would have cost a school $500-$1000 for practicing in such conditions. However, league officials and coaches may very well find themselves in a civil court being asked why they ignored that standard of care.
I don’t know what answer they could give to satisfy any jury.
Nor do I know what Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder was thinking at a July 22 news conference when he said, “If you want to be great at something, you’ve got to push the envelope. That’s what conditioning is all about.”
I thought conditioning was about improving performance. And improving in your chosen sport is all about practicing/conditioning in an environment as close to game conditions as possible. Consequently, running sprints in the arena would have been entirely appropriate. But stairs outside in the heat? Did Oklahoma State anticipate their basketball team playing in such conditions between November and March?
Those aren’t the only questions the Cowboys athletic department may eventually be compelled to answer.
Why did 40 minutes elapse between the time paramedics were called and the time Coger arrived at a medical center barely one mile away?
Was an athletic trainer present? If an athletic trainer was not there, was the strength coach CPR/AED certified? Was an AED on hand and put to use?
Agreeing — for the sake of argument — that there was some benefit to be had from conditioning basketball players in such heat, had Coger and his teammates gone through a heat acclimatization program over the previous 7 to 14 days? That is the minimum and well-known time frame recommended by UConn’s Korey Stringer Institute, which is dedicated to the prevention of sudden death in sports.
Finally, with Coger being new to Stillwater, having transferred from a junior college, what medical screening(s) did he undergo upon his arrival, just 16 days before? OSU officials won’t specify, citing federal privacy laws.
Surely, though, an echocardiogram would have discovered the condition to which he succumbed.
Oklahoma State officials had better have the right answers ready if a lawyer for Coger’s family pushes an envelope across the table notifying them of a wrongful death lawsuit.
John Doherty is a licensed athletic trainer and physical therapist. This column reflects solely his opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JDohertyATCPT.
Source: NWI Times