“His Entire Body Was Shutting Down”: New State Rankings Show Gaps in High School Athlete Safety

By mid-afternoon on August 1, 2017, the temperature in Stockton, Calif. was at least 105 degrees. Thirteen-year-old Jayden Galbert complained to his mother, Shynelle Jones, about the heat, but didn’t want to skip preseason football practice and hurt his chances of making the freshman football team. Instead, he showed up, pushed himself to participate, and then collapsed on the field. “He started vomiting and he was shaking,” Jones says. “He couldn’t see. He was trying to focus, but he couldn’t.” Jayden was eventually airlifted to UC Davis Medical Center, where he was diagnosed with exertional heat stroke, which in turn led to rhabdomyolysis, a dangerous condition in which muscle breakdown can cause kidney damage. “His entire body was shutting down and I almost lost him,” Jones wrote on Facebook shortly afterwards.

At the time, California’s high schools were not required to follow national best practice standards for preventing and treating heat stroke — guidelines that include having cold water tubs on hand in case players overheat, among other cooling treatments. And they’re still not, according to a new study conducted by the Korey Stringer Institute at the University of Connecticut that ranks all 50 states and the District of Columbia on whether they’ve implemented key sports safety policies that can prevent serious injuries and deaths of high school athletes. California ranks nearly last on the list and hasn’t implemented any of the best practice policies for preventing heat stroke, but many other states also fared poorly.

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