FHSAA works with sports doctors to change athletics policies

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - Sports doctors worked with the High School Athletic Association in Gainesville Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss how to keep teenage athletes safe. A Southwest Florida parent is using her son's death as an example of why policy needs to change statewide.

"Zachary was at a summer practice June 29th of 2017 and they were finishing up running drills, and went to a huddle, and he collapsed at the back of the huddle," said Laurie Giordano. Her 16 year old son died 10 days later after a heat stroke, and she said no one knew what to do. "His teammates were trying to give him water. He was not swallowing. He was having a seizure."

It happened in Lee County, but stories like hers are making an impact for sports medicine professionals statewide.

"Fortunately heat strokes are rare, and if they're treated appropriately and they're treated early they're 100% preventable," said UF Health Sports Medicine Physician Bryan Prine.

The High School Athletic Association, along with UF Health doctors and the Florida Alliance for Sports Medicine are meeting to do just that.

"The Korey Stringer Institute based at the University of Connecticut produced a rubric that grades all 50 states and the District of Columbia and what they've done is essentially have determined which states have the best police enacted," said UF Health Sports Medicine Physician Seth Smith. He said Florida ranks at 23 nationwide.

They want to implement mandatory actions: like WetBulb globe temperature readings, cold water immersion tubs, and athletic trainers at every sporting event.

"The use of cold water immersion would have greatly benefited Zach," said Giordano. "From the time that we went down until the time he arrived at the ER it was an hour and 15 minutes. His temperature when he arrived at the ER was 107 degrees."

"If you can bring the athletes temperature below those critical levels and get them down to a 102 range before transport, the survival outcomes are at 100%," said Dr. Prine.

Another parent shared her son's long term vision loss and damage to his brain affecting his heart after several concussions.

"With concussions there can be post-concussion type syndromes that can include long term headaches or problems with concentration and learning," said Dr. Prine.

"My son was 6'4", 320 lb lineman and there is a huge hole physically in our lives," said Giordano.

The family created a foundation under their son's name, the Zach Martin Foundation to bring awareness to parents all over the country.