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LAS VEGAS — Athletic trainers from across the country are gathering here this week for the National Athletic Trainers’ Association’s 70th Annual Clinical Symposia and AT Expo which started Monday and runs through Thursday.

Just last week, the organization issued a press release that called for heat-readiness to protect student athletes. There was nothing new in the press release. However, judging by events in just the last two weeks, the information may as well have been novel because there are just too many high school coaches and administrators who have not been getting the message.

Since the start of the month, at least three high school students have died during or immediately following summer conditioning sessions.

On June 10, a 17-year-old dancer and cheerleader lost consciousness while running laps in Georgia. A day later, a 14-year-old high school football player collapsed during a conditioning session in Florida. A week after that, a 15-year-old football player in Louisiana was laughing and joking with teammates in the locker room after a workout, when he suddenly collapsed.

The young lady had apparently passed out at a previous practice and, according to news reports, was denied water during the practice immediately prior to her death. It is not clear if there was an athletic trainer in attendance. However, no athletic trainer was present during the practice in Florida, despite a heat index pushing 100. Nor, apparently, was there one present when the Louisiana athlete was stricken.

Autopsies for all three athletes are pending.

“The death of any student athlete is a tragedy,” said NATA President Tory Lindley in the press release. “NATA is committed to increasing awareness of established guidelines and preventative procedures, and we expect all involved in sports to ensure lifesaving guidelines are in place to protect student athletes. The tragic deaths of athletes during the past year are reminders to everyone including athletic trainers and coaches how important these guidelines and procedures are.”

Lindley’s full-time job is with Northwestern University as senior associate athletic director for health safety and performance. On Tuesday, he will be making the opening remarks at a news conference, here, where the NATA will unveil the survey results of collegiate athletic programs regarding their compliance with NCAA legislation that mandates “athlete-centered care.”

That model, according to the another NATA press release, is intended to ensure, “independent medical care by giving primary athletic health care providers — defined as team physicians and athletic trainers — the autonomous authority to make decisions related to the health and safety of athletes without the influences of the athletic department, including coaches and other personnel.”

The survey was distributed to over 9,000 collegiate athletic trainers. Nearly 20 percent responded and just over half (nearly 52%) of the responding schools indicated they comply with the NCAA legislation.

Scheduled to follow Lindley is University of Kansas Director of Sports Medicine Murphy Grant, who conducted the survey. He intends to address KU’s recent implementation of a medical oversight and healthcare compliance model and how other college athletic programs could and should do the same.

In fact, expect much of Grant’s advice to be applicable to any athletic program, regardless of level. The National Federation of State High School Associations, to which the IHSAA and IHSA belong, would do well to take note.

John Doherty is a licensed athletic trainer and physical therapist. This column reflects solely his opinion. Reach him at jdoherty@comhs.org. Follow him on Twitter JDohertyATCPT.

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