With the mercury headed upward this week, it is worth noting that a bill is working its way through the Indiana General Assembly that would require all school-based coaches to undergo training in the recognition and treatment of heat illness.
Sponsored by Rep. Ron Bacon (R-Evansville), House Bill 1024 is directed toward interscholastic and intramural coaches, mandating completion of a certified education course every two years, as they already need to do for concussion.
If it passes and is signed by Governor Eric Holcomb, it will take effect on Jan. 1 of next year.
After passing the House by a 91-0 vote on Jan. 25, the bill faces a vote in the Senate Committee on Education and Career Development this week. Given the vote in the House, expect clear sailing in the Senate followed by the governor’s signature.
Implementation for schools should be relatively easy, because football coaches have been required to complete a heat illness certification course bi-annually in Indiana since 2014, and one is available at no cost from the NFHS.
Given that heat illness causes more deaths among young athletes than head injuries, Bacon’s bill is long overdue. While the dangers of heat are greater for football players wearing football gear, fall athletes involved in cross country, soccer, tennis and volleyball risk being overheated, too.
In the NFHS’s online course, coaches learn about heat acclimatization, adjusting practice schedules and intensity based on the heat index, adequate hydration, recognition of symptoms and the necessity of having an emergency action plan. Such a plan should be practiced periodically and include a provision for cold water immersion before transport to an emergency room.
Don’t head for concussion blood test yet: The headline in the email from the New York Times on Thursday read: “First Blood Test to Detect Concussions Is Approved.”
The email went on to say, “The device may be able to quickly identify people with suspected brain injuries that could be widely used by the Pentagon and in sports.”
It depends upon what one means by “quickly.”
According to the New York Times' story, the Food and Drug Administration predicts that the test would reduce the need for CT scans for suspected brain injuries by one-third.
Approved for use only in adults, the test detects the levels of two proteins in the blood that indicate bleeding has occurred in the brain and would be visible on a CT scan. According to the FDA, the test is 97.5-99.6 percent accurate.
The article neglected one crucial fact that was included in the FDA’s press release announcing the test’s approval: the test takes three to four hours to produce results.
A physician in an emergency room or immediate care center needs to make a decision on the necessity of a CT scan far sooner than that.
Another possibility mentioned in the New York Times' story — sideline testing — really isn’t much of a possibility either. The vast majority of sports-related concussions occur in children, for whom the test has not been approved. Furthermore, there is that time hurdle to cross and the fact that concussion, by definition, does not involve bleeding in the brain.
No word on what the test will cost, but until it is further refined and becomes more timely and more specific to concussion, it is not particularly practical.