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Bill aims to protect student athletes

Posted at 6:28 AM, Jan 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-31 06:28:01-05

BUCKINGHAM, Fla -- The Florida House has unanimously passed a bill aimed at protecting student athletes from heat strokes.

This is a story that hits close to home in Southwest Florida. In 2017, a student athlete suffered a deadly heat stroke at Riverdale High School.

Zach Polsenberg was running drills during football practice when he suddenly collapsed. When he arrived at the hospital, they found he had a temperature of 107 degrees. The heat stroke incident tragically claimed his life.

Ever since his untimely death, his family has been active in speaking with lawmakers, arguing for life saving changes that could have prevented Zach's death. The argument being that time is of the essence when it comes to keeping student athletes safe.

A new bill that received unanimous support from the Florida House Thursday recognizes that.
With doctors saying heat stroke is 100% preventable if rapid cooling starts within the first 10 minutes.

If passed, the bill would establish requirements for "cooling zones" which could include such things as cold-water immersion tubs.

Since day one, family members of Zach Polsenberg have said that a bill like this could have saved his life.

“Research and studies have shown that if you can get a person suffering from heat stroke into an ice bath, a cold water immersion tub within those first few minutes, survivability is 100%. And to me, that just makes it absolutely mandatory,” said Laurie Giordano, Zach's mother.

So far, the senate version of the bill has been approved by one committee.

As the bill continues to gain support, we are also watching to see how a lawsuit filed by Polsenberg’s family is progressing. Right now, the family is in the process of transferring the case from federal to state court.

The family filed the suit against the school, school board, and county medical emergency services, accusing them of negligence and wrongful death. Back in October, a federal judge dismissed the case. But the family's attorney says they're currently moving forward with the case in state court.

“Specifically as it relates to Zach when he started to show signs of illness he was not attended to appropriately. This was completely preventable. They did not call 911 when they should have, they did not attend Zach how they should have," said Ty Roland, the family's attorney.