By Jocelyn Maminta
STORRS, Conn. (WTNH) – High school sports create a frenzy, on the field, in the gym, and in the stands.
But the first study of its kind — a state by state analysis into safety practices — reveals what needs to be done to better protect student athletes.
“We’re looking at the key things that can cause death in high school sports. So cardiac issues, heat issues, head injuries and other things that can protentially prevent serious consequences from playing high school sports,” says lead researcher Douglas Casa, who heads up the Korey Stringer Institute at UConn – a national sports research and advocacy organization.
Connecticut he says ranks 38th — among the other states and District of Columbia.
But Casa stresses that statewide policy changes at little or no cost, could easily boost that ranking.
Such as a detailed emergency action plan, “Like kind of set policy-like a recipe to follow like I call this number, open this gate, meet this ambulance driver and take the person there.”
He also recommends — modifying routines when needed, “When it’s really extreme environmental conditions, you make modifications, so like the state of Georgia has an outstanding policy that when it gets hotter outside, you have more rest breaks, and you have longer rest breaks.”
The unexpected can happen anytime.
Baseball pitcher Joey Ciancola died soon after collapsing on the first day of winter workouts on a practice field at a New England college.
“He was in perfect health and pushed to his limits,” says his mother, Michelle Ciancola.
She says that visible symptoms of exertional heat stroke went unchecked, “Joey became delirious, started to run backwards instead of forward. He was definitely struggling. When he collapsed he was having seizures.” She adds, “I strongly urge all parents and athletes that are going off to school — going off to high school — or going off to college in the next few weeks — to check in with your athletic department and ensure that they are following proper protocol and that they are trained.”
Casa says, “We need parents to make sure that when every time their kid goes out to a playing field, that there is an athletic trainer there, that there’s treatment for heat stroke, that they have an A-E-D just in case there’s a cardiac event.”
Even if a state doesn’t have a policy, Casa says that individual schools can set their own.
For example he says, E-O Smith High School in Storrs has immersion tubs on the practice field, even though it’s not required by the state.