Heat-Related Illness in Interscholastic Football:what Coaches and Athletic Administrators Need to Understand

By Miller, John J.; Wendt, John T. | Journal of Contemporary Athletics, April 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

Heat-Related Illness in Interscholastic Football:what Coaches and Athletic Administrators Need to Understand


Miller, John J., Wendt, John T., Journal of Contemporary Athletics


REPORTS FROM THE GILPIN COLLAPSE

In 2009, an interscholastic high school football coach was indicted on the charge of reckless homicide after one of his players fatally collapsed due to heat stroke during a practice (Commonwealth of Kentucky v. David Jason Stinson, 2009). The football practice in question began at 4 pm. In an interview following the incident the head football coach reported that at 3:45 pm he took note of the "temperature and heat readings at that point on my board, mark 'em down, put 'em in the shed, where we always keep our temperature heat readings during practice" (Louisville Metro Police Department, 2008d, p. 4). The high school athletic director also stated that on the day in question he took a hygrometer reading that registered a heat index of 94 degrees around 5:15 pm. Allegations were made in the case that the coaching staff denied the players water breaks on that day. Although Adam Donnelly, an assistant coach, indicated that the first water break was given after drills had been conducted, he stated he was not specifically sure exactly when. "I believe it was somewhere between 4:30 and 4:45" (Louisville Metro Police Department, 2008c, p. 3). When asked how many minutes the football players were allowed to get a drink of water, the assistant coach responded that, "There is no time put on it, they just know they're supposed to drink...they just know they're supposed to go over and get it and get back" (Louisville Metro Police Department, 2008c, p. 4). After the players watered themselves to their satisfaction, they could come back to the field. It should be noted that while practicing, the only water available is the watering area at the, the soccer field approximately 400 yards from the football practice field. Additionally, no trainer or water bottles were available to players during practice (Louisville Metro Police Department, 2008c,). A third water break was ... "between 5:20 and 5:25, and they were at water till 5:30" (Louisville Metro Police Department, 2008c, p. 8). According to Coach Donnelly, he did not notice whether Gilpin was among the football players who took part in getting water. Donnelly further stated that the head coach, David Stinson, told the team to line up for conditioning drills, also known as "gassers" at 5:30 pm. A gasser is defined as running..."approximately a 200-meter sprint, where they have to run the width of the football field, which is approximately 50 meters" (Louisville Metro Police Department, 2008c, p. 10). When asked if the players were dressed in full uniforms while running gassers, Donnelly responded that they were allowed to take some equipment off, but he could not definitively state how long the players had to run gassers before doing so. According to the head coach,

we put 'em on the line and each day we usually run between six and eight in full gear. That day we ran 12 full gassers. We ran eight with our equipment on, then after the eighth one we took their helmets off...and set those down. We ran two more and then we took their shoulder pads off...and then we ran two more. So that day they ran about 30% more than they would on a normal day (Louisville Metro Police Department, 2008d, p. 20).

When asked if he noticed anything wrong with Gilpin, Stinson replied:

I walked past Max. And this is probably 6:05, to 6:10, somewhere in that nature. So I walk past Max. At this point, Max is finished running. He finished...he finished what we asked him to do. He's walkin', he's breathin', he's sweatin', he never says coach, I don't feel good. Coach, nothin's goin' on. He walks, he's walkin' with the rest of 'em (Louisville Metro Police Department, 2008d, p. 26).

However, shortly after 6:00 pm Gilpin, a back-up offensive tackle, began staggering in the middle of the field. It isn't until two other players began to assist Gilpin that an assistant coach notices the situation unfolding. The assistant coach told the players to let Gilpin walk on his own (Louisville Metro Police Department, 2008a). …

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