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Leaders to vote on heat protections for high school sports

Posted at 7:35 PM, Apr 26, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-26 19:35:43-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- A Southwest Florida mother is heading to Gainesville to push for tougher FHSAA safety regulations in relation to heat safety.

Laurie Giordano started the Zach Martin Memorial Foundation after her son, Zachary Polsenberg, suffered a heat stroke on the football field at Riverdale High School during football practice in June of 2017. He died days later.

Since then, she has worked with the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee to draft new FHSAA regulations that would mandate Wetbulb Globe Temperature Thermometers, which measure heat stress, to be on practice fields at all times. The proposal would also require a cold water immersion tub on the field during all sports practices. "If they had gotten him into a cold water immersion tub in the shade quickly, he would still be here," Giordano said.

The FHSAA meets Monday to vote on the proposed policies. However, Giordano noticed language on the proposals she helped write was changed. "The FHSAA has changed the wording to strongly recommended. Which means there is no requirement. There's no sanction if they don't do it," she said.

Bob Sefcik, who sits on the Sports Medicine Advisory committee, says the committee is in place by the FHSAA to review sports safety standards, and the groups recommendations are normally passed. Fox 4 asked if there has been another instance where policy recommendations have been rephrased by the FHSAA before a vote. "You know, no it has not. We've always been well supported with the information coming out of our committee," Sefcik said.

When we asked the FSHAA about their stance, they replied with this statement:

"The FHSAA’s No. 1 priority is student-athlete safety. To that end, the Association has specifically bolstered its stance centered on Heat Acclimatization, Hydration, Rest and the availability and use of cold immersion tubs and environment monitoring devices such as the Wet Bulb Globe Thermometer.

As with the State Statute and FHSAA Policy regarding AED’s (F.S. 1006.165), the FHSAA would mandate each school have and employ the use of heat monitoring and quick cooling devices, provided a similar state statute were in place mandating such."

Giordano believes the agency should mandate these new policies, whether the state makes it a law or not. "Why wasn't Zach's death enough a reason to put these things in place as policies?" she questioned.