Student athlete safety measure moves forward

Posted March 22

— State House lawmakers are looking at new requirements for athletic programs in middle and high schools to lessen the number of injuries from sudden cardiac arrest, heatstroke and concussion.

House Bill 116 passed the House Health Committee Wednesday. It would require schools and other organizations that offer athletics programs to students in grades 6-12 to advise students' parents and guardians about the potential dangers and to offer materials or a list of websites where parents can learn more.

It would also require all coaches and athletic trainers to be certified in CPR and would require someone certified in CPR to be present during any athletic activities, even intramural sports.

The bill also requires "venue-specific response plans" for emergencies and says schools must report concussion events monthly to the state Department of Public Instruction, the North Carolina High School Athletics Association and the Gfeller Foundation.

"It’s designed to reduce injuries and to enhance the safety of sports and to create response strategies when these things are manifested," said sponsor Rep. Harry Warren, R-Rowan.

According to Warren, there are an estimated 1.4 million sports-related injuries to children every year. In North Carolina, there were 118 heat illnesses reported by student athletics programs from 2005 through 2009.

A related proposal to require all coaches to be trained in CPR passed the House easily in 2015 but was never heard in the Senate. Athletic trainers are already required to be certified.

"Believe me, if you go down, you want somebody by you who’s had this training," said Rep. Becky Carney, D-Mecklenburg, who suffered a massive heart attack in her legislative office in 2009.

But Carney also expressed concern that the bill doesn't include any funding to train coaches or help DPI pay for the database it will need to set up under the bill.

Rep. Cynthia Ball, D-Wake, asked whether small schools can afford to staff all intramural events.

"I just want to make sure we’re not asking schools, especially in rural areas, to do something they do not have the resources to do," Ball said.

The bill passed the committee unanimously and is headed to House K-12 Education Committee next.


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