Football Practice and High Heat: A Deadly Combination

Football Practice and High Heat: A Deadly Combination

In the Midlands area of South Carolina, we are all too familiar with the extreme heat and humidity that can linger well into the fall. Unfortunately, our kids are also familiar with the inhospitable heat and may be practicing hard for a football game in it. Football practices in humid, 95-degree heat can be a recipe for catastrophe. It happened at River Bluff High School in Lexington County, SC, on August 10, 2016, when 14-year-old Lewis Simpkins died during football practice.

A Preventable Tragedy

The day Simpkins died, the River Bluff HS football team practiced for over two hours in blistering heat while outfitted in full pads. Allegedly, the practice, characterized as the hardest one the team had ever suffered through, was to punish them for losing a scrimmage the day before. According to some people, Simpkins was not the only player who struggled in the 95-degree heat index conditions that day.

Simpkins was considered an exceptional player, a defensive tackle who was 6’2” and 270 pounds already at 14. He hoped to play for Clemson.

Simpkins’ family has filed a lawsuit, charging that gross negligence caused the teen’s death. The family wants a jury trial to determine damages and has brought the suit against the Lexington 1 School District, Lexington County, the S.C. High School League and the S.C. Board of Education for, among other things, failing to protect student athletes.

What Are Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke?

You have probably heard the terms heat exhaustion and heat stroke. One is serious, but the other is deadly and requires immediate emergency treatment. Here are the differences:

  • Heat exhaustion, whether caused by too little water or too little salt, is marked by excessive weight loss, excessive thirst, cool, clammy skin, weakness and exhaustion, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, muscle cramps, and a rapid but weak pulse.

With heat exhaustion, immediately loosen the person’s clothing, move them to an air-conditioned area, place them under cool running water or use cold compresses on them, and urge them to sip water, but only if they are fully conscious. Seek medical attention as soon as possible.

  • Heat stroke is marked by no sweating, hot, dry skin, a body temperature of 103 degrees or higher, a rapid but strong pulse, a significant headache, confusion, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and a loss of consciousness.

Heat stroke requires immediate emergency attention. Call 911! Then use cool water, immersing the person, if possible, in an air-conditioned area until EMTs arrive.

Sadly, some coaches and football organizations still withhold water and electrolyte sports drinks or salt, mistakenly believing that doing so will “toughen up” players. But the only thing withholding water and electrolytes is likely to do is to make a child very sick with heat exhaustion, or possibly kill them with heat stroke. It is emphatically not a worthwhile or healthy practice.

Two Items Can Save Lives

More heat stroke deaths are inevitable unless we take action, because it looks as if our summers are getting hotter. As extreme heat grows more common, we need to be more vigilant about protecting our kids. Fortunately, two things can help in that regard: cooling tubs and heat stress monitors. Cooling tubs, which should be kept at the ready with cold water in them for immediate immersion, are not required in South Carolina. Cooling tubs effectively bring down body temperature in anyone who is dangerously overheated. They can save lives.

Heat stress monitors have been called “the gold standard” to monitor conditions on the practice field, according to Samantha Scarneo, Vice President of Sport Safety for the Korey Stringer Institute at the University of Connecticut. The Institute is named after Stringer, a Minnesota Vikings player who died in 2001 from heat stroke.

Three states require only heat stress monitors, while eight states require only cooling tubs. Three states require both. South Carolina mandates the use of only heat stress monitors. Surrounding states North Carolina and Georgia require both monitors and cooling tubs.

Heat stress monitors cost between $100 and $200. The expense of a cooling tub is about the same. Aren’t our kids worth it?

You can see South Carolina’s high school sports safety policies on the Korey Stringer Institute’s web site.

Family owned. Family focused.

At the Louthian Law Firm, we advocate for South Carolinians who have been harmed in personal injury accidents due to negligence. If your child has suffered a serious injury or has died due to what you believe is reckless or negligent behavior on the part of others, you’ll need a team of professionals to help you deal with what could be long-lasting and life-altering changes. The Columbia personal injury attorneys at the Louthian Law Firm can be valued members of your team, obtaining compensation from the negligent parties who caused the injury. They can also seek the compensation you are entitled to in the case of a wrongful death. South Carolina law can be complex, and personal injury claims have a filing deadline, so please do not delay. Reach out to us today by calling us or by filling out our online contact form. The initial consultation is always free.