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Bill To Prevent Heat Strokes Among High School Athletes Head To Governor

football players in red t-shirts hold their pads and look out over a field
Bobby Caina Calvan
AP Photo/The Associated Press

A bill to make K-12 student-athletes safer in Florida is now being sent to the governor after receiving a unanimous vote in the House and Senate. The bill focuses on heatstroke prevention for outdoor sports.

Stipulations would be put in place at all Florida High School Athletic Association events to help reduce the chances of heatstroke. Sponsor Rep. Ralph Masullo (R-Beverly Hills) explains some of the new provisions.

"This bill will establish heat and humidity levels at which schools must implement a cooling zone at any level of athletic events, contests, practices, workouts, and conditions," Masullo said.

"The bill gives schools the tools needed to monitor heat and humidity levels. It requires schools to have protocols in place for responding to heat strokes.

It requires school emergency action plans to include a procedure for onsite cooling using cold water immersion or its equivalent before transporting a patient or an athlete to a hospital," Masullo said.

The plans are aimed to help reduce the threat of heat strokes. Other states have a requirement for schools to have cold water immersion tubs on site, and the bill adds Florida to that list. Florida leads the nation in high school student-athlete deaths from heatstroke, with four since 2011. One of those is Zachary Martin, who the bill is now named after.

"This amendment names the bill the Zachary Martin act after a young football player in lee county who died of heatstroke in 2017. His mother Laurie Giordano has been an advocate for this bill," Masullo said.

Martin’s mom Giordano testified during an earlier committee meeting.

"He died in 2017 during summer football practice. He suffered a heat stroke and for the next 11 days, I watched him fight to survive. Those were the worst 11 days of my life," Giordano said.

It was 107 degrees that day. Giordano believes if the bill becomes law it’ll save kids in the future.

"I also believe it’s necessary for our schools here in Florida. Exertional Heat Stroke is 100% preventable and survivable if we are prepared," Giordano said.

During Senate debate on the bill, Sen. Victor Torres (D-Kissimmee) said he had a bill that would’ve helped other Floridians who are out in the heat.

“I just want to bring out to other Senators that I had a bill on heat bill on those who work outdoors, those workers, agriculture, construction we need to pay attention to their needs as well," Torres said.

That bill didn’t receive a hearing this session. As for the Zachary Martin Act, it’s now heading to the Governor’s desk.

Blaise Gainey is a State Government Reporter for WFSU News. Blaise hails from Windermere, Florida. He graduated from The School of Journalism at the Florida A&M University. He formerly worked for The Florida Channel, WTXL-TV, and before graduating interned with WFSU News. He is excited to return to the newsroom. In his spare time he enjoys watching sports, Netflix, outdoor activities and anything involving his daughter.